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VOL. I. 


















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Mt friend Dr. Nansen has done me the honour to ask 
me to write an Introduction to the narrative of his 
journey across the Inland Ice of Greenland. Dr. 
Nansen has told so fully the story of his own work 
and of the work of those who have preceded him 
in the exploration of Greenland, that he has left 
nothing to say in that direction. He himself hardly 
requires to be introduced to the British public. 
His stalwart figure was one of the most prominent 
objects in the streets and drawing-rooms of London 
in the summer of 1889 ; and many must have heard 
him tell the story of his adventures at the meetings 
of the Eoyal Geographical Society and the British 
Association. It is unnecessary, and it would scarcely 
be appropriate, for me to say anything in praise 
either of Dr. JSTansen's wonderful journey or of the 


full narrative which follows, and which will be found 
to contain much that will interest both the student 
of science and the ordinary intelligent reader. Dr. 
Nansen has taken as much pains with his book as 
he took with the preparations for his hazardous 

As Dr. Nansen is hkely to come even more 
prominently before the world in the future than he 
has done in the;' past, probably the best service I can 
render him and his readers will be to give a few 
details of his career previous to his entering upon 
the undertaking the story of which is told in the 
present volume. 

Fridtjof Nansen was born at a farm about two 
miles from Ohristiania on October 10, 1861. His 
father, who was a lawyer, lived there for fifteen years 
after Fridtjof was born, when he removed into town. 
Young Nansen began his career as a ' skilober ' 
(snow-shoer) when he was four years old, and in 
time became known as one of the most accom- 
plished athletes in this and other respects in Nor- 
way. In skating, shooting, and other sports he be- 
came as efficient as he was on the ' ski.' From the 
time he was seven years old he, along with his 
younger brother, walked to Ohristiania to school 


daily in all sorts of weather. In 1880, when Nansen 
was eighteen years old, he entered the University 
of Christiania, and soon manifested a special liking 
for scientific studies. He determined to devote him- 
self to Zoology, and, as he teUs in his book, in 
order to investigate the animal life of the Arctic 
regions, he went in the Norwegian sealer 'Viking' 
to the seas between Spitzbergen, Jan Mayen, and 
Greenland. The cruise lasted five months, during 
which Nansen shot about five hundred large seals 
and fourteen polar bears. As will be seen in 
Chapters I. and X., the ' Viking ' got fast in the ice off 
the east coast of Greenland, and it was then that the 
idea occurred to Nansen that it would be practicable 
to land on the coast and cross the Inland Ice. Im- 
mediately after he returned from this trip he was 
appointed Curator of the Bergen Museum, which 
position he held till 1888, when he started on the 
expedition which brought his name so prominently 
before the world. During this time he was engaged 
in completing his university career and in carrying 
on zoological investigations, the principal results of 
which are embodied in the following memoirs : — 

'Bidrag til Myzostomernes Anatomi og Histo- 
logi ' (' Contribution to a Knowledge of the Anatomy 


and Histology of tlie Myzostomida '), Bergen, 1885. 
(Eewarded with the gold medal of the Museum.) 

A memoir on the same subject was contributed 
to the Jena 'Zeitschrift filr Naturwissenschaft,' 
Band XXI. Jena, 1887. 

'The Structure and Combination of the Histo- 
logical Elements of the Central Nervous System,' 
pp. 200, eleven double plates, in the Bergen Museum 
'Aarsberetning' for 1886. Bergen, 1887. . (For this 
memoir Nansen received his doctor's degree.) 

Thus it will be seen that both by physical train- 
ing and by the habit of scientific research Dr. 
Nansen is well quahfied for the task of exploration ; 
his narrative wiU show that he is equally skilful 
in the use of his pen. Upwards of a year ago he 
married a daughter of the late Professor M. Sars, 
like his well-known son Professor 0. Sars, an eminent 
naturalist ; among many other accomplishments, Fru 
Nansen is probably the most skilful lady snow-shoer 
in Norway. 

With regard to the great Polar expedition, for 
which Dr. JSTansen is now making preparations, much 
could be said. There are sure to be , differences of 
opinion as to the best route ; but Dr. Nansen has 
already shown such excellent judgment in connexion 


with the Greenland expedition, and is so well in- 
formed as to all that has been done in the past 
in the way of Polar exploration, that we may feel 
confident that whatever route he selects will have 
been adopted only after the fullest consideration of 
every contingency. Everyone will wish him success 
in the great and hazardous expedition on which he 
will enter in 1892. 


Savile Bow, London, W. 
Ootoher 1890. 


I PEEL that I cannot send this book out to meet its 
fate without attaching to it a hearty expression of 
my gratitude to all those who gave their help to the 
expedition with which it is concerned. 

Among these I must assign a prominent place to 
Herr Augustin Gamel, in virtue of the ready libe- 
rality with which he offered his support to an under- 
taking which was very generally considered to be 
the scheme of a lunatic. And after him I must 
thank the Committee of the Norwegian ' Studenter- 
samfund,' or ' Students' Union,' who organised the 
collection of, and the large number of my coun- 
trymen who contributed to, the considerable sum 
which I received on my return home in defrayal of 
the outstanding expenses of the expedition. And, 


lastly, I must acknowledge the kindness of all the 
Danish officials with whom we came in contact, 
both in Denmark and Greenland, as well as the 
unbounded hospitality with which we were treated 
on all sides. 

But my chief thanks are nevertheless owing to 
my five comrades, to whose combined effiarts the suc- 
cessful result of our undertaking is of course mainly 
due. Everyone who has conducted an expedition 
will know how ready the world is to do the great in- 
justice of heaping the whole praise or blame for its 
success or failure on the shoulders of the leader 
alone. And this injustice is greater than usual in 
the case of an expedition like ours, in which each 
member serves as one of a team of draught cattle, 
and the result of which cannot therefore be depen- 
dent on the efforts of .a single individual. 

My comrades, too, I must thank for the terms of 
good-fellowship on which we lived and for the many 
pleasant hours we spent together in spite of ungenial 
surroundings. On these hours I have often dwelt 
with peculiar fondness in the course of my narra- 
tive. I have once more called to life many a 


little incident, which to others indeed may seem 
trivial, but which has a special value to us. If in 
so doing I have been induced to extend my tale to 
undue length, I must ask the good reader to bear 
with me if he can ; and if not, to remember that here 
at least all the blame must be laid on me and me 


Lysakeb, Chkistiania : 
October 1890. 





















LAND ICE ' 4.50 


The photographs, witlifew exceptions, were taken hy the Author on the expedition 


Fbidtjof Nansen (By E. Werenshiold) . . . Frontispiece 
Otto Sveedktjp ....... To face page 20 

Oluf Christian Dibtrichson .... „ „ 22 

My First Meeting with the Polar Ice (1882) 

(By Th. Hohnboe) . . . ■ ■' . „ ,,152 

Seal-skinning on the Floes' (By E. Weren- 

sJciold, from, a photograph) .... „ „ 182 

SvERDRUP's Watch on the Floe (July 20) (By 

E. Nielsen, from a sketch hy the Author) . „ „ 240 

An Eskimo ' At Home ' (By E. Nielsen, after a 

sTietch hy the Author) ..... „ „ 338 



Off the East Coast of Greenland, 1882 (From a sketch and 

a photograph by the Author) 1 

Kristian Kristiansen Trana 23 

Samuel Johannbsen Balto. Ole Nielsen Eavna . . .25 

Our Sledge 34 

' Truge ' AND ' Finnesko ' 39 

Our Boat 41 

Half the Expedition in its Sleeping-bag . . . .42 

' Lauparsko ' 46 

Wooden Eye-Protectors 50 

Our Cooker 54 

On Level G-round (From a photograph) , 77 

Up- and Down-hill (By E. Nielsen, after a photograph) . . 79 
A Steep Descent in the Forest (From a drawing by A. 

Bloch) 83 

The Modern 'Skade' or 'Ski '-Goddess (By A. Bloch, after a 

photograph) , 86 



The Earliest Deawing op a Norwegian ' Ski,' from the 

YEAR 1644 97 

' Skilobning ' IN THE Old Stylb (From a drawing hy E. 

Nielsen) 101 

Jumping on ' Ski ' {From a S/rawing by A. Block) . . . 104 
Jumping on ' Ski ' (By F. Nielsen, from cm insta/ntameous photo- 
graph) 105 

' Pacilis Descensus Averni.' An Awkward Corner {From a 

drawi/ng hy A. Bloch) 107 

The ' Ski' of the Expedition in Plan, Elevation, and Section 112 
' Laupaesko ' affixed to ' Ski,' showing the Fastenings . . 113 
OuB Farobse Pilot {From a photograph) ..... 118 

Little Dimon {After a photograph) 118 

A Bird Eock in the Faroe Islands (After a photograph) . 119 
An Arch of Whales' Jaws at Thorshavn (From a photograph) 121 
Basalt Mountains in Haraldsund, seen from Klaksvig (From 

a sTcetch hy the Author) ....... 123 

EocKS on the North Coast of the Faroe Islands (By Th. 

Hohnhoe, after a photograph) ...... 125 

The Vestmanna Islands and the Eyafjallajokul at Sunset (By 

Th. Holmhoe, from, a slcetch made hy the Author i/n 1882) 127 
Cliffs on the North Side of the Vestmanna Islands (From 

a photograph) 128 

The only Lighthouse in Iceland (By Th. Hohnhoe, from a 

sketch hy the Author) 129 

Eeykjavik, and the only Eoad in Iceland (From, a photograph) 130 
The ' Thyra ' passing Snefellsjokull (By Th. Hohnhoe, from 

a slcetch hy the Author) . ' 131 

Dyrafjord and GljCmujokull prom Thingeyre (From a sketch 

hy the Author) 135 

The Basalt Plateau seen from Glamujokull (From a sketch 

hy the Author) 136 

An Iceland Maiden (By A. Bloch, from a photograph) . , 138 
An Iceland Farm ifiy E. Nielsen, from, a photograph) . . 139 
The First Sight op Greenland on June 11 (From a sketch 

hy the Author) 160 

■ Male of the Blabdee-nose Seal (By E. Nielsen, from a sketch 

by the Author) 168 

Female and Young of the Bladdee-nose Seax (By E, Nielsen, 

from sketches by the Author) ....,.,. 170 



Shooting Bladder-nose. — ' The others lie quietly gazing 
AT THEIR DEAD COMRADES, . . .' (By E. Nielsen, from 
a sketch hy the Author) 180 

The one Enemy of the Bladdee-nosb in, the Good Old Days 

(By E. Nielsen) 186 

Forcing our Way through the Ice (By Th. Holmboe, from 

am imsta/ntoMeous photograph) 190 

Navigation in the Iob — ' Hard a- Starboard ' (By the Author, 

from, a photograph) 193 

Seal Hunting. The Captain on the Look-out (By the Author, 

from, a photograph) . . . . . . . . 213 

At Work with the Boats (By E. Nielsen, after photographs) 250 
'He stopped, regarded us for an instant, and . . ,' (By E. 

Nielsen) 254 

Domestic Life on the Floe-Ice (From, a photograph) . . 258 
Night among the Floes (By E. Nielsen, from, a sketch by the 

Author) 260 

Hauling among the Hummocks (By A. Bloch, from a sketch 

by the Author) . . 265 

KuDTLEK Island and Cape Toedenskjold (By the Author) . 311 
Our First Landing-place (From a photograph) . . . . 313 
The Eskimo Encampment at Cape Bille (By E. Nielsen, from 

a photograph) 333 

An Eskimo Boy from Cape Bille (From a photograph) . . . 334 
Eskimo Garments, etc., from the East Coast of Greenland, 

IN THE Ethnographical Museum at Christiania . . 338 
Eskimo Woman from the East Coast of Greenland (From a 

photograph taken by the Damish ' Konebaad ' expedition) . 346 
Eskimo Beauty, from the East Coast, in] her Old Age (By 
E. Nielsen, from a photograph taken by the Dam/ish 

' Konebaad ' expedition) 347 

Eskimo, from the Camp at Cape Bille (From a photograph) 353 
An Eskimo prom Cape Bille (From am instantaneous photo- 
graph) . . , 357 

Eskimo prom Cape Bille (From aphotograph) .... 358 
Eskimo from Cape Bille (From a photograph) . . . . 359 
' Outside one little tent I found an unusually sociable 

woman' (By E.Nielsen, from a photograph) . . , 360 
' Then the master came out of the tent ' (From a 'photo- 
graph) 361 



A Boy feom Cape Bille (From a photograph) .... 363 
' The line was broken, and some of the canoes already 

speeding away southwards among the floes ' (from 

a photograph) 366 

'And the floes were forced to give way' (By E.' Nielsen, 

from a sketch hy the Author) 376 

The View to the South from ' The Eagle's Nest ' {From a 

photograph) 881 

A Colossal Iceberg off Nagtohalik {From a photograph) . . 385 
The North Side of the Fjord at Tingmiarmiut {From a 

photograph) 388 

Work in the Ice on the way northwards {By E. Nielsen, 

from, a photograph) . . 394 

The most Charming Spot we had yet seen in Greenland 

{From, a photograph) 415 

Open Water among the Icebergs on August 9 {By A. Block, 

from am, vnstoMtameous photograph, taken that day from, a 

' floe) 422 

The View to the North from our Camping-place at Eange- 

rajuk {From a photograph) 424 

The Last Day op our Coast Voyage (August 10) {By A. Eloch, 

from, am instamtameous photograph taken that day from 

a floe) 425 

Our Last Encampment on the East Coast on the Morning 

■ of August 11 {From a photograph) 430 

Pall into a Crevasse {By E. Nielsen, from a sketch hy the 

Author) 435 

' When the bridges were too weak we crawled over flat on 

our stomachs ' {By E. Nielsen, from a sketch by the 

Author) 443 

A Gobbler's Stall on the East Coast {From a photograph) . 449 
Dr. H; Eink . . ' 468 


Southern Greenland, showing the Route of 

THE Norwegian Expedition in 1888 . . To fa,ce page 1 

North-eastern Europe and Northern Asia . „ „ gi_ 

Umivik, and the adjacent ' Inland Ice ' . . . . at 







OBEENIiANI), 1882 

(From a 'sketch and a photograph 
by the author) 

In the . summer of 1882 

I was on board the 'Viking/ 

a Norwegian sealer, which 

was caught in the ice off that part of the east 

coast of Greenland which is still unexplored or, 

VOL. I. • B 


more precisely, somewliere in the neighbourliood of 
lat. 66° 50' N. For more than three weeks we were 
absolutely fixed, and every day, to the terror of the 
crew, we drifted nearer to the rocky coast. Behind 
the fields of floating ice lay peaks and glaciers 
glittering in the daylight, and at evening and through 
the night, when the sua sank lowest and set the 
heavens in a blaze behind them, the wild beauty of the 
scene was raised to its highest. Many times a day 
from the maintop were my glasses turned westwards, 
and it is not to *be wondered at that a young man's 
fancy was drawn irresistibly to the charms and 
m.ysteries of this unknown world. Unceasingly did 
I ponder over plans fosjeaching this coast, which so 
many had sought in vain, and I came to the conclusion 
that it must be possible to reach it, if not by forcing 
a ship through the ice, which -v^as the method tried 
hitherto, then by crossing the floes on foot and 
dragging one's ,boat with one. One day, indeed, 
I incontinently proposed to make the ^ttempt and 
walk over the ice to shore alone, but this scheme 
came to nothing because the captain conceived that 
he could not in the circumstances allow anyone to 
leave the ship for a length of time. 

On my return I was asked to write an article in 
the Danish ' Geografisk Tidskrift ' (vol, vii., p. 76), 
and in this I expressed it as my opinion that it would 


be possible to reach the east coast of Greenland with- 
out any very great difficulty if the expedition forced 
their way as far as practicable into the ice on board 
a Norwegian sealer, and then left the ship and passed 
over the floes to shore. I wiU not say that I had not 
at this time some notion more or less . visionary of 
penetrating from the coast into the interior, but it 
was not till a later occasion .that the idea took a 
definite form. 

One autumn evening in the following year, that is 
to say, 1883 — I remember it still as if it were only 
yesterday — I was sitting and listening indifferently 
as the day's paper was being read. Suddenly 
my • attention was roused by a- telegram which told 
us that Nordenskiold had come back safe from 
his expedition to the interior of Greenland, that he 
had found no oasis, but only endless snowfields, on 
which his Lapps were said to have covered, on their 
' ski,' ^ an extraordinarily long distance in an astonish- 
ingly short time. The idea flashed upon me at once 

' As these implements and their use will be treated of at length in 
Ch. III., it win only be necessary here to introduce the terms to the. 
reader. ' Ski ' (pi. ' ski ' or ' skier '), literally a ' billet ' or thin slip of 
wood, and connected etymologically with the Eng. ' skid ' and ' shide,' 
is the Norwegian name for the form of snowshoe in general use among 
the northern nations of the Old World. The pronunciation of the word 
in Norway maybe considered practically identical with the Eng. ' she.' 
The compounds of the word which will occur in the course of the 
narrative are ' skilober,' a snowshoer, and ' skilbbning,' snowshoeing, 
both formed from the verb ' lobe,' to run. The only reason why the 

B 2 


of an expedition crossing Greenland on ' ski ' from 
coast to coast. Here was the plan in the same form 
in which it was afterwards laid before the public 
and eveiitually carried out. 

My notion, put briefly, was that . if a party of 
good ' sHlobers ' were equipped in a practical and 
sensible way, they must get across Greenland if they 
began from the right side, this latter point being of 
extreme importance. For if they were to start, as 
all other expeditions have done, from the west side, 
they were practically certain never to get across. 
They would have aU the flesh-pots of Egypt behind 
them, and in front the unexplored desert of ice and 
the east coast, which is little better. And further- 
more, if they did get across, they would have the 
same journey back again in order to reach home. 
So it struck me that the only sure road to success 
was to force a passage through the floe-belt, land on 
the desolate and ice-bound east coast, and thence 
cross over to the inhabited west coast. In this way 
one would burn all one's ships behind one, there 
would be no need to urge one's men on, as the east 
coast would attract no one back, while in front would 
lie the west coast with all the allurements and 

established English term ' snowshoe ' shoijlcl not have been employed 
throughout is that this course would have led to inevitable confusion 
with the very dissimilar Indian snowshoe, of which also frequent 
mention is made. 


amenities of civilisation. There was no choice of 
routes, 'forward' being the only word. The order 
would be : — ' Death or the west coast of Green- 

Next year I expounded my plan in a letter to 
an acquaintance in Denmark, and proposed a com- 
bined Danish and Norwegian expedition to the east 
coast of Greenland. The Danes were to explore the 
coast, while the Norwegians were to cross over the 
' Inland ice ' ^ to the western side. Whether this letter 
reached its destination I have never learned. I, at 
least, never heard anything further, and, as I was 
much occupied in other directions, the matter 
remained at rest for some years. Not till the 
autumn of 1887 did I resolve to give my serious 
attention to the scheme. My original idea had been 
to carry out the expedition with private means, but, 
as I was strongly urged on more than one side to 
apply to the Norwegian University for the necessary 
funds, in order to give the expedition a more public 
and national character, I consented, and sent to the 
authorities an application for a grant of 5,000 kroner, 
or rather more than 275^., in aid of a journey on 
the lines I. have already described. My application 

' The term ' Inland ice ' has been adopted directly from the Danish 
' Indlandsis,' which is the accepted geographical name for the ice-mantle 
covering, or supposed to cover, the whole interior of Greenland. 


received the warmest support from the University 
Council, and was passed on to the Government for 
their consideration, and in order that the proposal 
might be laid by them before the ' Storthing,' or 
National Assembly, in the regular manner. The 
Government, however, answered that they could not 
see their way to give the scheme their support, and 
one of the newspapers even went so far as to 
maintain that there could be no conceivable reason 
why the Norwegian people should pay so large a 
sum as 5,000 kr. in order to give a private indivi- 
dual a holiday trip to Greenland. Most people who 
heard of the scheme considered it simple madness, 
asked what was to be got in the interior of Greenland, 
and were convinced that I was either not quite right 
in the head or was simply tired of life. Luckily it 
was not necessary for me to procure help from 
Government, ' Storthing,' or anyone else. 

At this time I received an offer from a gentleman 
in Copenhagen to provide the sum for which I had 
applied to Government. This was Herr Augustin 
Gamel, who had already contributed to the cause of 
Arctic research by the equipment of the ' Dijmphna ' 
expedition.^ This offer, coming as it did from a 

■* The ' Dijinphiia ' was a Danisli vessel fitted out by Herr Augustin 
Gam^l, of Copenhagen, in 1883. The expedition was under the com- 
mand of Lieutenant Hovgaard, and its object was to reach the North 
Pole past the western side of Franz Joseph Land. The ' Dijiuphna ' 


foreigner, and one quite unacquainted witli me 
personally, and in aid of an expedition which was 
generally considered to be the scheme of a madman, 
seemed to ilie so truly generous that I could not for 
a moment hesitate to accept it. 

I first published my plan in January 1888 in the 
Norwegian Magazine ' Naturen',' in an article entitled 
' Gronlands Indlandsis.' Having given some account 
of the earlier attempts to penetrate to the interior of 
Greenland, I continued ; — ' My plan, described briefly,, 
is as follows : With three or four of the best and 
strongest " skilobers " I can lay my hands on, I mean 
to leave Iceland in the beginning of June on board a 
Norwegian sealer, make for the east coast of Green- 
land, and try in about lat. 66° JST. to get as near to 
the shore as possible. I should have Uked to land 
farther north in the unknown regions of Scoresby 
Fjord, but for this it would be necessary to hire a 
special vessel, and, as it would probably be difiicult 
to raise funds for this purpose, I have for the 
present given up this idea. If our vessel is not 
able to reach the shore, though the sealers, who 
have often been close in under this unexplored coast, 
do not consider such a thing improbable, the expedi- 
tion will leave the ship at the farthest point that can 

was frozen fast in the ice of the Kara Sea while attempting to rescue 
another vessel, the ' Varna,' and was obhged to return home the 
following year. 


be reached, and' will pass over tlie ice to land. In 
the sunimer of 1884, for instance, there was extremely 
little ice, and the seal were taken almost close under 
the shore. For the purpose of crossing the open 
water which wiU probably be found near the coast, a 
light boat will be dragged on runners over the ice. 
That such a crossing of the ice is possible, I feel I 
can assert with confidence from my previous experi- 
ence. When I was in these regions in 1882 on board 
the "Viking," and we were caught in the ice, and 
drifted for twenty-four days along the very coast 
where I now intend to land, I had numerous oppor- 
tunities while out shooting and for other purposes 
of becoming familiar with the nature of the ice and 
conditions of snow, and besides we were often obliged 
by sudden " nips," or jamming of the ice, to drag our 
boats over the floes for considerable distances. I 
therefore think there is every probabihty of our 
being able to reach land in this way. I should like 
it to be for preference somewhat north of Cape Dan, 
where the coast has never yet been explored by 
Europeans, and ofiers in itself much of interest to 
the traveller. To the south the coast is now com- 
paratively well known, as the Danish " Konebaad " 
expedition,^ under Captain Holm, in 1884 reached a 

^ The Danish ' Konebaad ' expedition to the east coast of Green- 
land was under the command of Captain G. Hoka and Lieutenant V. 


point to the north, of Cape Dan, and wintered at 
Angmagsalik, a colony of heathen Eskimo, in the 
neighbourhood of the cape. After having examined 
the coast as far as the time at our disposal will allow, 
we shall begin the crossing of the " Inland ice " at the 
first opportunity. If we reach land to the north of 
Cape Dan, we shall begin the ascent from the end of 
one of the fjords close by ; if we land farther south, 
we shall push up to the end of Sermilikfjord before 
we take to the ice. 

' We shall try at once to chmb as high as possible 
on the bare rock, even if the gradient be considerably 
steeper ; for, when we are eventually obliged to take to 
the ice, we shall thus find it flatter and smoother, and 
shall escape the worst ice-falls of the glaciers, which 
with their crevasses and general roughness would be 
likely to prove troublesome and dangerous. Once 
upon the ice, we shall set our course for Christianshaab, 
on Disco Bay, and try to reach our destination as 
soon as possible. The advantage of making for 

Garde, and was engaged in exploration from 1883 to 1885. During the 
summer of 1884 Captain Holm, with the Norwegian geologiet 
Knudsen and a section of his party, penetrated to the hitherto 
unknown region of Angmagsalik and Cape Dan, where they spent the 
following winter. ' Konebaad,' literally ' woman-boat,' is the Danish 
equivalent for the Eskimo 'umiak,' the native skin-boat, which is 
always manned by women. The expedition here referred to made use 
of these ' umiaks ' and Eskimo rowers entirely, as at that time it was 
considered that the ice-belt of the east coast could only be navigated 
in this way. 


Disco Bay instead of taking a point farther south is 
that we shall probably find the snow in better con- 
dition farther north. And besides, by Disco Bay, 
where the land is not much cut up. by fjords, it will 
be comparatively easy for us to find our way to habi- 
tations, while Drsco Island, which lies off the coasi, 
and will be visible to us with its terraced, basalt 
cliffs, will prove a good landmark and help uS to find 
one of the two colonies, Jakobshavn or Christianshaab, 
which lie on Disco Bay about thirty-five miles apart. 

' The distance from, the point on the east coast 
where I intend to land to Disco Bay is about 670, kilo- 
metres or 420 miles. If we calculate that we shall 
be able to cover on a daily average from fifteen to 
twenty miles, which is exceedingly little for a 
" skilober," the crossing wiU not take more than a 
month, and if we carry with us provisions for double 
that time there seems to be every probability of our 

' The provisions will have to be hauled on sledges 
of one kind or another, and besides the " ski " we 
shall also take " truger," the Norwegian, counterpart 
of the Canadian snbwshoe, which may serve our 
purpose better when the snow is wet and soft. "We 
shall also, of course, take the instruments necessary 
for observations' .... &c. &c.' 

It is not to be wondered at that several more or 


less energetic protests against a plan of ttis kind 
appeared in the newspapers, but they were one and 
all distinguished by an astonishing ignorance of the 
various conditions of, and the possibility of passage 
over, extensive tracts of ice and snow. 

In this connexion I cannot dieny myself the 
pleasure of reproducing some portions of a lecture 
dehvered in Copenhagen by a young Danish traveller 
in Greenland, and printed in the Danish magazine 
' Ny Jord ' for February, 1888. ' Other plans,' the 
lecturer says, ' have never passed beyond the stage 
of paper. Eke the proposals to cross the " Inland ice " 
in balloons, which were brought forward at the end 
of the last century. And among these paper-schemes 
we must include the proposal which has just emanated 
from the Norwegian zoologist, Fridtjof Nansen,- of the 
Bergen Museum.' . . . ' There is much that is attractive 
in the fundamental idea of Nansen's scheme, in his 
proposal to start from the east coast, and cross to 
the colonies on the other side instead of taking the 
reverse way, and in his intention, he being a good 
" skilober " himself, to make " ski " his means of con- 
veyance. But all who acknowledge the merits of 
the fundamental idea must, if they know anything- 
of the real condition of things, refuse any further 
sanction to the scheme. The very method by which 
Nansen proposes to reach the coast, that is to say, by 


abandoning the firm ship's-deck and creeping like a 
polar bear from one rocking ice-floe to anotber on 
Ms way to the shore, shows such absolute recklessness 
that it is scarcely possible to criticise it seriously.' 

. . . ' Let us suppose, however, that fortune 
favours the brave, and that Nansen has reached the 
east coast of Greenland. How will he now set about 
getting up on to the real flat expanse of the " Inland 
ice," or, in other words, how will he pass the outer 
edge, where peak upon peak rise through the ice- 
mantle, and in all probability present at nearly 
every point an impenetrable barrier ?'..,' Hansen's 
proposal to climb the high mountains of the coast 
and from their summits step upon the expanse of 
ice which is dammed up against them thus betrays 
absolute ignorance of the true conditions.' .... 
' With what can be seen from the shore my experi- 
ence ends, and I will not attempt to criticise the idea 
of crossing the inner tract of ice on " ski," or the 
possibility of taking enough provisions, or any 
similar questions. But I think that there is a pro- 
bability that this part of the scheme may be carried 
out if Nansen can once pass the outer edge of the 

' put there is one very difierent question on which 
I think I am not only qualified but bound to speak. 
And I say that, in my opinion, no one has the moral 


right, by setting out upon a venturesome and profitless 
undertaking, to burden the Eskimo of Danish East 
Greenland with the obligation of helping him out of the 
difficulty into which he has wantonly thrust himself: 
The few of us who know anything of the condition of 
things in East Greenland have no doubt that if 
Nansen's scheme be attempted in its present form, and 
the ship does not reach the coast and wait for him till 
he has been obliged to abandon his design, the 
chances are ten to one that he will either uselessly 
throw his own and perhaps others' lives away, or that' 
he will have to take refuge with the Eskimo and be 
conducted by them along the coast down to the 
Danish colonies on the western side. And I say that 
no one has a right to force upon the East Green- 
landers a long journey, which will be in many ways 
injurious to them.' 

There is no doubt that these passages were written 
with every good intention, but they are, nevertheless, 
characteristic specimens of the almost superstitious 
terror with which many people, and among them some 
who pose as .authorities, and claim to have special 
knowledge of the subject, have regarded the ' Inland 
ice ' of Greenland and the passage of tracts of ice and 
snow generally, even in these latter days. The writer 
of the above article had himself in the course of several 
years' exploration passed along the edge of the ' Inland 


ice,', but it seems never to have entered into his head 
to make a little incursion into the interior. The first 
few steps would certainly have cleared his mind of 
some of his absurd hallucinations, and he would 
eventually have learned what an ' absolute ignorance 
of the true conditions ' really means. 

' In another article, which betrays, if possible, even 
less knowledge of the subject, the writer declared that 
,even if Nansen himself were mad enough to make 
any such attempt he would not get a single man to 
.accompany him. 

In England, too, the press delivered itself of 
several articles adverse to the plan of the expedition. 

But, in spite of these warning voices and in spite 
of the general opinion that the whole scheme was 
simple madness, there were, nevertheless, plenty of 
men who wished to join me. I received more than 
forty applications from people of all sorts of occu- 
pations, including soldiers, sailors, apothecaries, 
peasants, men of business, and University students. 
There were many others, too, who did not apply, but 
who said they were more than eager to go, and would 
have sent in their names, had it been of the slightest 
use. ISTor were these applicants all Norwegians, for I 
received many letters, too, from Danes, Dutchmen, 
^Frenchmen, and Englishmen. 

I could, however, take none who were not tho- 


rouglily accustomed to the use of ' ski,' and men, 
too, of proved energy and endurance. Finally, I 
chose three Norwegians : Otto Sverdrup, a retired 
ship's captain ; Oluf Dietrichson, First-lieutenant' in 
the Norwegian Infantry; and Kristian Kristiansen 
Trana, a peasant from the north of Norway. 

As I had originally thought of taking reindeer, 
and imagined, beside.s, that some Lapps would be of 
use to me, as possessing that sense of locality and 
power of adaptation to all sorts of circumstances 
"which such children of nature have as a common 
birthright, I had written to two well-known men 
living in Finmarken, asking them if they could find 
me a couple of Mountain-Lapps ^ willing to join the 
expedition. I stipulated that they should be plucky 
men, who were known to be clever mountaineers and 
to possess powers of endurance above the average ; 

' As many who have travelled in the north of Norway and Sweden 
-will know, the Lappish population falls into several more or less distinct 
divisions. The most interesting section, the real nomadic Lapps of the 
reindeer-herd and skin-tent, form as a matter of fact a small part of 
-the whole. They are commonly known in Norway as ' Pjeldlapper ' 
(' Mountain-Lapps '), and it was from among them that I had intended 
-to take my two men. Far the greater number of the Lapps are 
settled either on the Norwegian coast as 'Solapper' ('Sea-Lapps'), 
where they maintain themselves chiefly by fishing ; or in the interior, 
at such vOlages or centres as Karasjok, Kautokeino, Jokkmokk, Kvick- 
jock, and Karesuando, as well as in most of the upper valleys of 
northern Sweden. The ' Elvelapper ' (' Eiver-Lapps '), to whom I refer 
below in connexion with Balto's origin, are merely a small colony settled 
by the river Tana, and are, as I have said, supposed to be of mixed 
lappish and Finnish blood. 


that they should be made fully aware beforehand of 
the dangerous nature of the undertaking, and that the 
fact must be clearly impressed upon them that there 
was just as much probability of their never return- 
ing home again as of surviving. And I further 
added that they must be unmarried men of a,ri age 
between thirty and forty, as I considered that at 
this time of life the powers of both body and 
mind are best prepared to meet the trials of such 
an undertaking. 

It was a long time before I received an answer to 
my inquiry. The post among the inland districts of 
Finmarken is leisurely, and is taken across the moun- 
tains in reindeer sledges every fortnight. At last 
when the time fixed for our start was approaching 
I received an answer telling me that I could have 
two good men from Karasjok, if I was willing to pay 
them handsomely. I accepted their terms and tele- 
graphed to them to come at once. The next thing I 
heard was that they were on the way and would 
arrive on such and such a day. I was exceedingly 
anxious to see them, of course. They were expected 
one Saturday evening, and I had some people down 
at the station to meet them and take them to their 
lodgings. But no Lapps arrived that day or on Sun- 
day either, and we all wondered what had become of 
them. Then on Monday I was told that they reaUy 


had come, and so indeed they had, but by a goods 
train instead of the ordinary express for passengers. 
I hurried down to their lodgings at once, found their 
door, and, as I entered, saw standing in the middle of 
the room a good-looking young fellow, but more like 
a Finn than a Lapp, and away in the corner an old 
man with long black hair hanging about his shoul- 
ders, small in stature, and looking more stunted still 
as he sat huddled up on a chest. He had a much 
more genuine Lappish look about him than the other. 
As I came into the room the elder man bent his head 
and waved his hand in the Oriental manner, while the 
younger greeted me in the ordinary way. The old 
fellow knew very Httle Norwegian, and most of my 
conversation was with the younger. I asked them 
how they were, and why they came by the goods 
train. ' We do, not understand trains,' answered he, 
' and, besides, it was a little cheaper.' ' Well, how old 
are you both ? ' 'I am twenty-six, and Eavna is forty- 
five,' was the answer. This was a pretty business, for 
I had stipulated that they should be between thirty 
and forty. ' You are both Mountain-Lapps, I sup- 
pose ? ' ' Oh no ! only Eavna ; I am settled at Karas- 
jok.' This was stiU worse, as I had made a point of 
their being Mountain-Lapps. ' But are not you afraid 
to go on *his trip ? ' said I. ' Yes, we are very much 
afraid, and people have been telling us on the way 
VOL. I. c 


that the expedition is so dangerous that we shall never 
come home alive. So we are very much afraid, in- 
deed ! ' This was really too bad, for the poor fellows 
had never even been told what they had undertaken 
to do. I was very much inclined to send them back, 
but it was too late to get anyone else to take their 
place. So, as I had to keep them, it was best to con- 
sole them as well as I could, and tell them that what 
people had been saying was all rubbish. It was no 
manner of -use to discourage them at the outset, for 
they were likely to lose their spirits quite quickly 
enough anyhow. Though they did not perhaps look 
quite so strong and wiry as I could have wished, still 
they seemed to be good-natured and trustworthy 
fellows. These qualities, indeed, they have shown 
to the utmost, and in endurance they have proved 
little, if at all, inferior to us. In other respects 
I found them of no particular use, as far as the 
accomplishments which I expected to find in them 
are concerned, and, as a matter of fact, they were 
never used for reconnoitring purposes. 

Balto, my younger Lapp, on his return home 
wrote a short account of his experiences while he 
was away. This has been translated into Norwegian 
from the original Lappish by Professor Friis, of Chris- 
tiania, and I propose to include in my narrative those 
passages of his which seem to me most characteristic 


and likely to afford most interest to the general 
reader. After describing his voyage from Finmarken 
and telhng how people on the way discouraged them 
and informed them, among other things, that I was a 
simple maniac, he continues : — ' On April 14th we 
left Trondhjem and reached Christiania on the 16th. 
Nansen had sent a man to the railway station to meet 
us. This was Sverdrup, who came up to us and 
asked : " Are you the two men who are going with 
Nansen ? " We answered that we were the two. 
Sverdrup then told us that he was going with Nansen 
too, and had come on purpose to meet us. " Come 
along with me," he said ; and he took us to a hotel, 
which is in Toldbodgaden, No. 30. An hour after- 
wards Nansen and Dietrichson came to see us. It 
was a most glorious and wonderful thing to see this 
new master of ours, Nansen. He was a stranger, but 
his face shone in our eyes hke those of the parents 
whom we had left at home ; so lovely did his face 
seem to me, as weU as the welcome with which he 
greeted us. AU the strange people were very kind 
and friendly to us two Lapps while we were in Chris- 
tiania town, and from this time we became happier 
and all went well with us.' 

As through the whole course of my narrative we 
shall have the company of the five men I have already 
mentioned, the most fitting thing I can do will be to 



present them duly to the reader with some short ac- 
count of the antecedents of each. I will begin with 
my own countrymen and take them in the order of 
their age. 

Otto Sverdrup was born on October 31, 1855, at 
the farm of Haarstad, in Bindalen, in Helgeland. ; His 
father, Ulrik Sverdrup, a member of an old ISTor- 
wegian' family, was an owner- of farm' and forest 
, property. , Accustomed' from childhood to wander in- 
the forest and on' the- mountains' on all' kinds of 
errands and in':all:sDrts of:'wekther, he learned early 
to look after himself ' and to stand on his own legs* - 
Early, too, he learned to use his ' ski,' and a rough 
and impracticable' country like^ 'that of Bindalen 
naturally made him an active ' and clever ' ski- 
lober.' i ■ , •. ; 

At the age of seventeen he went to seaahd sailed 
for many years on . American as well as Norwegian 
vessels. In 1878 he; passed the necessary examina- 
tion in Christiania and sailed .'as mate for several 
years, being during. tMs period once wrecked with a, 
Norwegian schooner, off. the west coast of Scotland. 
On this occasion he;,showed to the full the sort of 
stuff he was made of, and it was mainly his coolness 
and perseverance which saved his crew. Since this 
he has sailed as captain on a schooner and a steamer, 
and one year spent the fishing season with a smack 



on the banks oiFthe coast of Nordland. Of late years 
he has for the most part remained at home with his 
father, the latter having meanwhile sold his property 
in Bindalen and moved southwards to the farm of 
Trana, near Stenkjer. Here he has spent his time at 
all sorts of work, in the forest, on the river, floating 
timber, in the smithy, and fishing at sea, where as 
boat's-captain he was unsurpassed. 

Some years ago a man was wanted at Gothen- 
burg to take charge of the Nordenfeldt submarine 
boat which was to be taken across the North Sea to 
England. A reward was offered, but no one was 
found willing to undertake this risky task. Sverdrup 
at this juncture accidentally appeared, and he offered 
his services at once. He prevailed upon a relative 
to go with him as engineer, and the two proposed 
to navigate the strange craft across the North Sea 
without further help. The prospect to Sverdrup 
was one of pure sport, but at the last moment the 
authorities changed their minds, and the boat was 
eventually towed across. 

It is plain that a man of this type was specially 
created for such an expedition as ours. In the course 
of his vagrant and chequered life he had learned to 
find his way out of aU kinds of difficult situations, 
and I need scarcely add that we never found him 
wanting in either coolness or resource. 


Oluf Christian Dietrichson was born in Skogn, 
near Levanger, on the 31st of May, 1856, and was 
the son of Peter Wilhelm Krejdahl Dietrichson, the 
official doctor of the district. -He was educated at 
Levanger, Trondhjem, 'and Christiania, entered the 
miUtary school as a cadet: in 1877, and received a 
commission as second lieutenant in the Trondhjem 
brigade in 1880, being promoted to the rank of first 
heutenant in .1886. During- the present summer he 
has received his captaincy. 

He has all'his Hfe been a keen sportsman, and by 
good. physical training he has hardened and developed 
his naturally strpngiand weU-built frame. Of late 
years he'- has every winter gone long tours on ' ski ' 
through ;tlre great'er'part of Southern Norway, has 
paissed through" most of our valleys, from Skien in the 
south to- 'Trondhjem in the north, and there are not , 
many who' have seen'so much of the country in its 
winter aspect' as' he.-- 

■ The acquirements of his mihtary education stood 
the expedition in good stead. He undertook our 
meteorological diary -practically single-handed, and 
the results 'of our-' surveys and our maps are due to 
him. He discharged these duties with an amount of 
■zeal and self-denial which are more than admirable, 
and the merit of such work as he produced in such 
circumstances wiU. only be appreciated by those who 



have had a similar experience. To take observa- 
tions and keep a meteorological diary with the usual 
exactitude and punctuality, when the temperature 


is below — 20° F., when one is, dead-tired, or when 
death and destruction are at hand ; or to write when 
the fingers are so injured and swollen by the frost 
that it is almost impossible to hold a pencil, needs an 


amount of character and energy which is far from 

Kristian Kristiansen Trana was no more than 
twenty-four years old when he joined the expedition. 
This was considerably below the age which I con- 
sidered most suitable for such a task ; but, as he was 
plucky and strong and unusually eager to go with us, 
I did not hesitate to take him on Sverdrup's recom- 
mendation, and I had no reason whatever to regret 
my choice. 

He was born on February 16, 1865, at a cottage 
on the farm of Trana, which is now the property of 
Sverdrup's father. At his home he has been chiefly 
engaged in forest work, but has been to sea once or 
twice, and was .therefore likely to be .a handy man. 
He proved steady and trustworthy, and when Kristian 
said that he was going to take anything in hand, I 
always knew that it would be done. 

Samuel Johannesen Balto is a Lapp settled at 
Karasjok, and was twenty-seven when he joined us. 
He is of average height, and has none of the outer 
Lapp characteristics ; he belongs, in fact, to the so- 
caUed ' Eiver-Lapps,' who are generally people of some 
size and have much Finn blood in them. He has 
spent most of- his time at forest work, but for several 
years he has been out in the fishing season, and for a 
while, too, he has helped to tend reindeer among the 



Mountain-Lapps, being for a part of the time in the 
service of Eavna. He is a lively, intelligent fellow ; 
he did everything he undertook with great energy, and 


in this respect was very different from his companion 
Eavna. He showed some powers of endurance too, 
was always willing to lend a hand at any job, and 
was thus of great use to us. And, lastly, his ready 


tongue and broken Norwegian constituted him to a 
great extent the enlivening spirit of the expedition. 

Ole Nielsen Eavna is a Mountain-Lapp from the 
neighbourhood of Karasjok, and when he joined the 
expedition was forty-five or forty-six, he not being 
•quite sure of the" year himself. He has spent all his 
nomadic life in a tent and wandered with his reindeer 
about the mountain wastes of Finmarken. His herd, 
when he ' left it for Greenland, was of no great siize, 
and contained from 200 to 300 deer. He was the 
only married member of the expedition, and left a 
wife and five children behind him at home. As I 
have already said, I did not know this beforehand, as 
I had insisted upon all my companions being Un- 
married. Like all Mountain-Lapps, he was pre-emi- 
nently lazy, and when we were not actually on the 
move no occupation pleased him so much as to sit 
quietly in a coriier of the tent with his legs crossed, 
doing absolutely nothing, after he had once brushed 
himself clean of snow. Earely indeed was he seen to 
undertake any work unless he were directly called 
upon to do so. He was very small, but surprisingly 
strong, and capable of any amount of endurance, 
though he always managed to save his strength and 
reserve his powers. When we started he knew very 
little Norwegian, but for this very reason his remarks 
were extremely comical and provided us with plenty 


of amusement. He could not write and had no 
acquaintance with so modern an apparatus as a 
watch. But he could read, and his favourite book 
was ' his Lappish New Testament, from which he 
was never parted. 

Both the Lapps had come, as they declared them- 
selves, merely to gain money, and interest and ad- 
venture had no place in their minds. On the con- 
trary, they were afraid of everything, and were easily 
scared, which is not to be wondered at when it is 
remembered how very httle they understood of the 
whole business at the outset. That they did not 
come back so ignorant as they went will be seen 
from some of Balto's observations, which I shall 
subsequently quote. 

Eavna and Balto were good-natured and amiable ; 
their fidelity was often actually touching, and I grew 
very fond of them both. 




An expedition such as that which we were about to 
undertake obviously depends for its success in a large 
measure upon the equipment, and, indeed, in our 
own case the lives of the participators would certainly 
have been sacrificed if there had been any serious 
failure in this respect. A defective nail or join 
might have been quite enough to delay our whole 
progress, and might have led to the gravest conse- 
quences. In such circumstances every single article 
must be conscientiously tested, and changes and in- 
convenience endured until all is as perfect as human 
care can make it. AU depends upon the observation 
a,nd consideration of a long series of trifling details, 
the sum total of which constitutes success — a fact on 
which too much weight cannot be laid. Yet, as 
it seems to me, this is a subject which the orga- 
nisers of many previous expeditions have treated 
much too lightly. 

As I have already said, it was my original inten- 
tion to take, if possible, dogs or reindeer to drag our 


baggage. Plainly the advantage of such a course is 
considerable if one can only get the animals to the 
spot where the sledging will begin. Many men of 
-experience have maintained that neither dogs nor 
reindeer are really any help for long sledging expe- 
ditions, because they can only drag their own food 
for a limited period. There is a chain of argument 
here which I myself do not understand, for surely, if 
one cannot use the animals for the whole journey, 
one can take them as far as their provender lasts and 
then kill them. 

If one has a sufficient number of dogs or deer, 
and takes as much food for them as they can drag 
over and above the baggage of the expedition, then 
one can advance rapidly at the beginning without 
taxing one's own powers to any extent. At the 
same time, too, there is this advantage, that one can 
always procure a supply of fresh meat by slaughter- 
ing the animals one by one. For this reason so large 
a quantity of other food will not be necessary. And 
so, when one is at last obHged to kiU the remaining 
'animals, the expedition ought to have advanced a 
considerable distance without any exhaustion of the 
strength of its members, while they the whole time 
will have been able to eat their fiU of good fresh 
meat. This is an important point gained, for they 
will thus be able to take up the work as fresh and 


strong as when they started. It will no doubt be 
urged that these advantages will not be gained if dogs 
are taken. But I can answer from my own experi- 
ence that hunger is a sufficiently good cook to render 
dog's flesh anything but unpalatable, The Eskimo 
indeed reckon it a delicacy, and it is certain that 
anyone who could not in the circumstances bring 
himself to eat it would not be a fit person to ac- 
company such an expedition at all. 

If I could have obtained good dogs, I should 
therefore have taken them. Dogs are in some im- 
portant points preferable to reindeer, because they 
are much easier to transport and much easier to feed, 
since they eat much the same as the men ; while 
reindeer must have their own provender, consisting 
mainly of reindeer-moss, which would be a bulky 
and heavy addition to the baggage. However, it 
was quite impossible for me to obtain dogs which I 
could use in the time at my disposal, and I had to 
give up this idea, I then thought of reindeer, and 
not only wrote to Knmarken to make inquiries, but 
even bought moss for them in the neighbourhood of 
Eciros, But then I found that there would be so 
many difficulties in connexion with their transporta- 
tion, and still more when we should have to land them 
in Greenland, that I abandoned the scheme altogether 
and determined to be content with men alone. 


When every scrap of food on which a man is 
going to live will have to be dragged by himself, it 
is a matter of course that good care will be taken to 
xaake everything as light as possible and to reduce 
food, implements, and clothing to a minimum of 
weight. When one is busy with an equipment of this 
kind one begins instinctively to estimate the value 
of a thing entirely with reference to its lightness, 
and even if the article in question be nothing but 
a pocket-knife the same considerations hold good. 
But care must be taken, nevertheless, not to go too 
far in the direction of lightness, for aU the imple- 
ments must be strong, since they will have to stand 
many a severe test. The clothing must be warm, 
since one has no idea what amount of cold it will 
have to meet ; the food must be nourishing and com- 
posed of different ingredients in suitable proportion, 
for the work wiU be hard — harder, probably, than 
anything to which the workers have hitherto been 

One of the most important articles of equipment 
for a sledge expedition is, of course, the sledge. Con- 
sidering that in the course of time so many Arctic 
expeditions have been sent out, and especially from. 
England, one would suppose that the experience thus 
gained would have led to a high development in the 
form of the sledge. This is, however, not the case ; 


and it is a matter for wonder, indeed, that polar ex- 
peditions so recent as the Second German Expedition 
of 1869 and 1870 to the east coast of Greenland, the 
Austrian and Hungarian expedition of 1872-1874 to 
Franz Joseph Land, and even the great English ex- 
pedition of 1875 and 1876 under Nares to Smith's 
Sound, set out with such large, clumsy, and unprac- 
tical sledges as they actually took. Certainly the 
two latest expeditions, that of Greely in 1881-1884 
and the rescue party led by Schley and Soley, were 
better equipped in this respect. The general mistake 
has been that the sledges have been too heavily and 
clumsily built, and at the same time too large. And 
as in addition to this the runners were usually 
narrow, it is not difficult to understand that these 
sledges sank deep into the snow and were often 
almost immovable. Some expeditions have certainly 
made use of the Indian toboggan, which consists of a 
single board curved upwards in front. It is gener- 
ally of birch or some similar wood, and is about eight 
feet long by eighteen inches or more broad. 

Even in the beginning of this century these 
toboggans were used for Arctic purposes, and 
Franklin had some on his first expedition. The 
English traveller. Dr. Eae, and after him Greely, 
used similar sledges with very low and narrow 
runners, one on each side. Of course, sledges of 


this type ride well and high in loose snow, and are 
so far good and practical ; but when the surface is 
not very loose they give rise to too much friction, 
and are comparatively heavy to pull. 

Strangely enough, the organisers of few expedi- 
tions have thought of placing their sledges on broad 
runners. Payer, however, in his book upon the 
Austrian and Hungarian expedition, says that ' broad 
runners make progress in deep snow much ' ; 
and he speaks of having them 2|- inches in breadth. 
We Norwegians look upon this expedient as simply 
natural, as we are accustomed to our old-fashioned 
' skikjselke,' which is a low hand-sledge on broad 
runners, resembling our ordinary ' ski.' This, too, 
was my model for the form of sledge which we 
actually adopted. Our sledge seemed to possess aU 
desirable qualities : it was strong and light, rode 
high in loose snow, and moved easily on all kinds of 
surfaces. I based my design partly, too, upon that' 
of the sledge which is described in the narrative of 
the Greely Expedition, and which was used by the 
rescue party. 

Our sledges were made by a clever and conscien- 
tious Norwegian carpenter, who spared no pains to 
carry out my wishes, or to procure the best pos- 
sible material. I made numerous experiments and 
changes, and even undertook a journey on ' ski ' 

VOL. I. D 


over the mountains from Bergen to Christiania be- 
fore I finally adopted the pattern we used. 

All the woodwork except the runners was of ash, 
and of as good and tough material as could be pro- 
cured. And, as picked ash possesses such wonderful 
strength, we were able to make the upper parts of 
the sledge light and slender, without reducing their 
strength too much. The runners of two of the 
sledges were of elm, and those of the rest of a kind 


of maple {Acer platanoides), as these two woods 
glide remarkably well upon the snow. This, as it 
happened, was not a point of much importance, 
because I had the runners shod with thin steel 
plates, which I had intended to take off when we 
were once upon the loose snow, but which were 
• nevertheless used the whole way except in the case 
of one sledge. 

The accompanying drawing will no doubt give a 
sufficiently good idea of the structure of our sledge. 


and not mucli further description will be necessary. 
Fo nails or pegs were used, but all the joins were 
lashed, and the sledges were thus more elastic under 
shocks and strains which would have often caused 
nails to start. As a matter of fact, nothing whatever 
was broken the whole journey through. The sledges 
were about 9 feet 6 inches long by 1 foot 8 inches 
broad, while the runners, measured from point to 
point along the steel plate, were 9 feet 5f inches. 
The fact that they werfe turned up behind as well 
as in front gave the whole sledge more strength 
and elasticity, and there was this advantage besides 
that, had the fore end of a sledge been broken, we 
could have turned it round and dragged it equally 
well the other way. The chair-back-like bow 
which is shown in the drawing was made of a 
slender bar of ash bent into position. It proved 
of great service for pushing and steering purposes, 
especially when we were passing over difficult 
ground, and were obliged to take two men to each 

The weight of each sledge without the steel 
runners was about 25 lbs., and with them rather more 
than 28 lbs. Along the central line of these plates 
were attached narrow bars of steel with square edges, 
which were meant to serve as a kind of keel, and to 
. make the sledges steer better on ice and to prevent 

D 2 


them from swerving. This is an important point, 
for when one is passing among the crevasses of a 
glacier the swerving of a sledge may take it and 
its load, and even possibly one or more of the party, 
down into the depths of the ice. These bars were 
of excellent service while they lasted, but, as they 
were exposed to continual shocks and hard wear 
among the rough ice near the east coast, they were 
soon torn off, and this was especially the case when 
we climbed into low temperatures, as the steel then 
became as brittle as glass. Future expeditions, 
therefore, which make use of these keels under their 
runners, ought to have them attached in a different 
way. The strongest method would be, of course, to 
have them made in one piece with the steel plates, 
but in this case there would be the disadvantage that 
they could not be taken off at will. 

As the drawing shows, there was a ridge run- 
ning along the upper surface of each runner. The 
runners were made comparatively thin for the sake 
of- lightness, and these extra ridges gave them the 
necessary stiffness and elasticity. 

I had calculated that each sledge should be suffi- 
cient work for one man ; but, as it is a good thing, 
when one is on difficult ground, to send one of the 
party on ahead to explore, and as in loose snow the 
leader has the hardest work to do, I thought it most. 


practical to take only five sledges and always put 
two men to the first. 

The advantage of having a number of small 
pledges instead of one or two larger ones, as has 
been the plan adopted by so many of my prede- 
cessors, seems to me simply obvious. On difficult 
ground, where the work is hard, it is very trouble- 
some to have to manoeuvre large sledges with their 
heavy loads, and, in fact, we should have often found 
it a sheer impossibihty to advance without un- 
loadiiig and making portages. We, on the contrary, 
could always put two or three of the party to each 
sledge and thus push on without any such delay or 
inconvenience. Sometimes, indeed, we had to carry 
them bodily, loads and all. 

When we proposed to sail our sledges, as we had 
several opportunities of doing, we simply placed two 
or three of them side by side, laid some ' ski ' or long 
staffs across them, and lashed the whole fast. For 
masts we had bamboo poles brought for the purpose, 
and for sails the floor of our tent and two tarpaulins. 
With another bamboo out in front, somewhat after 
the fashion of a carriage-pole, we could hold a good 
course and make fair progress. Anyone who should 
equip himself specially for sailing would of course 
be able to manage things much more easily and 
successfully than we did. Sailing as a mode of pro- 


gression was first tried on. the ' Inland ice ' of Green- 
land by the American traveller Peary, and I think 
that future expeditions will do well to give more 
attention to the subject than has hitherto been done. 
I feel sure, too, that this method of getting over the 
ground may be adopted with advantage on the great 
snowfields of the Antarctic continent. 

The construction of our ' ski,' on which we so 
much depended, was of as much importance as that 
of our sledges ; but, as I intend to devote an entire 
chapter to the subject of ' skilobning ' generally, as 
well as to the part these instruments played in the 
expedition, I will say no more about them for the 

We took with us also Indian snowshoes and 
their Norwegian counterpart, the so-caUed ' truger.' 
As most of my readers no doubt know, the Indian 
snowshoe consists of a kind of plaited network of 
moose- or other sinews stretched upon a frame of ash 
or some equally tough wood, the whole construction 
somewhat resembling that of an ordinary tennis-bat. 
Ours were some 42 inches in length by 15-J- inches in 

The Norwegian ' truger ' are of much less 
elaborate structure, and are made of simple osier- 
work in the form shown by the accompanying illus- 
tration.; Ours were small, being only 15^ inches in 


length and 10-| inches across. These ' truger ' are 
used not infrequently in dififerent parts- of Norway 
both in winter and spring, and on the snow which 
one finds in the latter season, when ' ski ' are scarcely 
so good for practical purposes, they may be very 
serviceable. In many districts, however, they are 
employed more for the" aid of horses than men. 


These ' hestetruger ' as they are called are of exactly 
the same pattern, though the manner of attachment 
of course diiFers in the two cases. Our little moun- 
tain ponies soon become accustomed to these aids to 
progress, and can therefore be used when the amount 
or condition of the snow would render the employ- 
ment of less accomplished animals quite impossible. . 
It will be understood from what follows hereafter 


that all these forms of snowshoe are, for general use, 
rauch inferior to our ' ski ' on the feet of anyone who 
is accustomed to the use of the latter. The reason 
why I took these other implements was because I 
thought they would be of more service when we had 
to drag our heavy sledges uphill. We used them 
for this purpose too — that is to say, I myself and 
two of the others used the Indian snowshoes ; our 
fourth man could never learn to manage these and 
took to the ' truger,' though they let him consider- 
ably deeper into the snow, while the Lapps ex- 
pressed a lofty contempt for both kinds and would 
have nothing whatever to say to them. But it was 
not long before we all took to our ' ski ' for good and 
found them preferable even for uphill work. These 
snowshoes have, however, two advantages as com- 
pared with ' ski.' When the latter are not covered 
with skin beneath they are more troublesome to use 
than snowshoes in mild weather, when the snow 
is sticky, and they are in any case considerably 
heavier to carry. 

To make sure of getting a serviceable boat, 
which should be light enough to drag over the rough 
sea-ice and yet not weak enough to succumb to the 
violent shocks and sudden strains which it was sure 
to be exposed to among the capricious floes, I had 
one specially built in Christiania. Its length was 


19 feet, its greatest breadth 6 feet, and its depth inside 
2 feet. The boarding was double, each jacket being 
•|-inch thick, the inner of pine, the outer of the best 
Norwegian oak, the two as carefully riveted together 
as possible, and the intervening space filled by a 
layer of thin canvas. The ribs were of bent ash 
.1 inch broad and -|4nch thick, and were placed at 
intervals of 6 inches. Below the boat I had, besides 
the keel, runners of pine added to support it while it 
was being hauled over the ice. The boat proved a 

great success ; it was strong and elastic enough to 
resist the pressure of the floes ; but for the future I 
should be inclined to recommend single boarding 
instead of double, not only because in the former 
case the boat is e|isier to repair, but because the 
intervening space is liable to hold water and increase 
the weight. Again, I found that the added runners 
were really of very little use, while they were always 
liable to get nipped in the ice and thus help to 
destroy the whole boat.. 



The sleeping-bag is of course a most important 
article of equipment for all Arctic expeditions. In 
our case the nature of the material of which the 
bag should be made needed our best consideration, 
as it was necessary that it should be at the same 
time light and sufficiently warm. On previous expe- 
ditions sometimes wool and sometimes skins have 
been used. Wool, of course, lets the perspiration 
through much raore readily, and there is not so much 


condensation of moisture inside as in the case of skin ; 
but, on the other hand, wool has the disadvantage of 
being very heavy in comparison with the amount of 
warmth which it affords, For a time I thought of 
trying woollen bags, but I came to the conclusion 
that they would not be warm enough, and I now fear 
that if we had taken them we should have scarcely 
reached the west coast of Greenland alive. 

After several experiments I determined to use 


reindeer-skin, as the best material which I could pro- 
cure in the circumstances. Eeindeer-skin is, in com- 
parison with its weight, the warmest of all similar 
materials known to me, and the skin of the calf, in 
its winter-coat especially, combines the qualities of 
warmth and lightness in quite an unusual degree. 
This particular skin, however, I could not procure in 
time, and I was obliged to be satisfied with that of 
the doe, which is considerably heavier. Eeindeer- 
skin has this disadvantage, that the fur does not stand 
much wear, and the skin, if exposed much, to wet, 
soon loses its hair. From this point of view, dog-skin 
is a good deal better and stronger, but it gives nothing 
like the warmth of reindeer-skin. Wolf-skin is still 
better than dog-skin, and the only objection to it is 
its cost. However, our reindeer-skin lasted well 
through the whole journey and the winter on the 
west coast. It was specially prepared for us by 
Brandt, the weU-known furrier at Bergen, and I had 
every reason to be satisfied with it. 

We took two sleeping-bags, calculated to hold 
three men each. This proved a thoroughly practi- 
cal arrangement, since one bag for three men is, of 
course, much lighter than three, each for a single 
occupant, and much warmer, too, because the three 
mutually profit by each other's heat. In this respect 
one bag for all of us would have been still better, but 


I dared not risk the arrangement, for, had the sledge 
carrying the one bag gone down a crevasse, we should 
have been left entirely without protection against the 
low temperature of the nights ; while, as it was, if we 
had been unlucky enough to lose one of our bags, 
we should stiU. have had the other left, into which, we 
could have put four men under pressure, and so taken 
turn and turn about. 

Our bags had a hood-shaped flap, which could be 
buckled over our heads when necessary. As long as 
the cold was not extreme we found it warm enough 
with this flap just laid over us ; but when the tempe- 
rature got lower we were glad enough to have it 
buckled as tight as the straps would allow, for the 
aperture still left gave us quite enough ventilatidn. 
Very little, indeed, of the cold night-air of the interior 
of Greenland inside a sleeping-bag is more than suffi- 
cient. To protect the bags against outside moisture 
I had had some covers made of thin oilcloth, but we 
abandoned these soon after we started across the 
' Inland ice.' 

As our bags were of reindeer-skin, I did not think 
it necessary to take india-rubber air mattresses, and, 
as they are very heavy, it was a great advantage, to 
be able to do without them. 

In the way of clothes we had, except for a few 
reserve things, very little but what we were actually 


wearing when we left Norway. With the exception 
of two tunics of reindeer-skin which the Lapps wore, 
and a little coat lined with squirrel-skin which I took, 
but scarcely used, we had no furs, but wore woollen 
things throughout. Next our skins we had thin 
wooUen shirts and drawers, then thick, rough jerseys, 
and then our outer garments, which consisted of 
a short coat, knickerbockers, and gaiters. These 
were all made of a kind of Norwegian homespun, 
which gave every satisfaction. Whether the work be 
hard or not, wooUen clothes are far the best, as they 
give free outlet to the perspiration, whereas cotton, 
linen, or skins would check it. Above all things, we 
had to take care that we did not get overheated, 
because the succeeding chill was so likely to lead to 
freezing. As we got warm we had, therefore, to gra- 
dually abandon one garment after another, and we 
might often have been seen in fifty and sixty degrees 
of- frost working in our jerseys and yet perspiring as 
on an ordinary summer's day. 

In wind, snow, and rain we generally wore outside 
our other clothes a light suit of some thin, brown, 
canvas-like stuff. This was reputed completely water- 
proof, but it turned out to be nothing of the kind. 
In wind and snow, however, it did excellent service, 
and we used it often on the ' Inland ice,' as it protected 
us well against the fine driven snow, which, being of 



the nature of dust, forces itself into every pore of a 
woollen fabric, and then, melting, wets it through and 

To these canvas coats were attached hoods for the 
head which were large enough to project well in front 
of the face. These protected us excellently from the 
wind, which in a low temperature can be exceedingly 
trying, not to say dangerous, to one's cheeks and nose. 


For our feet we took, besides ordinary boots, the 
peculiar form known in Norway as ' lauparsko.' The 
soles of these latter consist of a piece of pliant leather 
turned up along the sides and at the toe, and sewn to 
the upper leather on the Upper surface of the foot, 
much on the same principle as the ' komag ' and 
' finnesko ' of the Lapps and Finns, and the ' kamik ' 
of the Eskimo. I have also seen a shoe of a similar 
form in Iceland, but there they were ugly and clum- 
sily made in comparison with ours. Inside these 


' lauparsko ' we wore first a pair of thick, well-shrunk 
woollen stockings, and over them thick, rough goat^s- 
hair socks, which, in addition to being warm, have 
the excellent quality, likewise possessed by the ' senne- 
^rses' {Carexvesicaria) of the Lapps, of attracting mois- 
ture to themselves and thus keeping the feet compara- 
tively dry. These ' lauparsko ' are thoroughly adapted 
for use with ' ski ' or snowshoes. They are stronger 
than ' hudsko,' another Norwegian form of shoe, made 
of half-tanned or quite raw hide with the hair left on, 
and ' finnesko,' the ordinary winter-shoe of reindeer- 
skin used by the Lapps, but are by no means so warm 
as the latter. Sometimes, indeed, we found it quite 
difficult to get our feet free of their covering in the 
evening, as the stockings, socks, and shoes were all 
frozen hard together. The two Lapps had two pair 
of ' finnesko ' each, as well as one pair which Balto in- 
sisted on presenting to me. These ' finnesko ' when 
good are made of the skin of the legs of the reindeer 
buck, the pieces with the hair on being laid for twenty- 
four hours or so in a strong decoction of birch or 
similar bark, or sometimes tanned in tar-water. The 
skin of the hind legs is used for the soles and sides, 
and that of the fore legs for the upper leather, the hair 
being left outside throughout the boot. Similar shoes 
are made of the skin of the reindeer's forehead and 
head. These, which ar« generally called in Norway 


success of the whole undertaking. "We used spec- 
tacles of dark smoke-coloured glass, some without and 
some with baskets of plaited wire to protect the eye 
against light coming from below and the sides . I myself 
chiefly used a pair of the latter, which had been given 
me by Nordenskiold, and which I found excellent. 
We also used spectacles or eye-protectors of wood 
with a narrow horizontal slit for each eye, like those 


commonly used by the inhabitants of Arctic regions. 
These are very serviceable especially for the reason 
that there is no glass to collect moisture and obstruct 
the sight. They have, however, the disadvantage 
that the field of vision is very considerably reduced, 
and it is particularly inconvenient not«,to be able to 
see the ground at one's feet when one is travelling on 
*ski.' But I should fancy that this defect might to 


some extent be met by making a vertical slit as well 
as a horizontal. 

Our tent, which was kindly procured by Lieu- 
tenant Eyder of Copenhagen, was constructed so that 
it could be taken into five pieces : two sides, two ends, 
and the floor, all of them of waterproof canvas. My 
notion had been that we should he able to use aU 
these sections as sails for our sledges, but the ends 
and sides were of such thin material that I was afraid 
the wind would tear them to shreds, which, to put 
it mildly, would have had most unpleasant conse- 
quences for us in the cold and snowstorms to which 
we were exposed. The canvas was otherwise most 
successful against the rain, wind, and driving snow. 
But as it is necessary to have a thin material for' the 
purpose of saving weight, I would recommend future 
expeditions to have their tents sewn in one piece 
with the floor ; the whole would then have the con- 
struction of a bag with but one opening, which would 
serve as the tent-door, as well as two small holes in 
the floor for the poles, which would be put through 
them and rammed down into the snow. The strong 
canvas floor of such a tent can nevertheless be used 
as a sail, as the thinner pieces can be left to hang 
down and be gathered together in front. Bj^ this means 
one would avoid the inconvenience of having the fine 
snow driven in through the laced joins. Our tent 

E 2 


was in this respect so imperfect that we would some- 
times wake in the morning and find our sleeping-bags 
completely buried in snow. The floor-surface of our 
tent was just large enough to hold the two sleeping- 
bags when they were placed alongside one another, 
but in opposite ways. The tent-poles were three in 
number, two being used as uprights, and the other 
joining them at the top ; they were all of bamboo and 
proved quite sufficient for the purpose, and the two 
smaller ones were used as staffs while we were on the 
move. The guy-ropes were fastened with broad iron 
crampon-like hooks, which gave a good hold. On the 
whole the tent stood very weU in the snow, though 
in several storms we were very much afraid that it 
would go, and I would therefore recommend others 
to have good storm-guys. We had some, indeed, but 
one or two of them gave at the point of attachment 
and were not easy to repair. 

The exact weight of the tent, ^ter I had made 
considerable alterations and reductions, I do not quite 
remember, though I know that with guys, pegs, and 
poles it did not altogether exceed eighteen pounds. 

The value of a good cooking apparatus to the 
members of a sledge-expedition can scarcely be over- 
rated, for often by its help every drop of drinking- 
water over and above that which can be melted by 
the heat of the body .must be obtained. The most 


important qualification is that it shall make the most 
of the fuel, or, in other words, that it shall render 
combustion as complete as possible and let none of 
the heat escape till it has done its work. In this way 
the weight of one of the most important articles of 
equipment is reduced to a minimum. 

~FoTfuel there is, no doubt, nothing at aU com- 
parable with alcohol, which should be as pure as 
possible. In addition to other advantages, such as 
its cleanliness, it has the great merit of yielding more 
heat than anything else in comparison to its weight. 
It has certainly two defects, for in the first place as a 
liquid it is easily spilt and wasted, though this may 
be avoided by using the very best of barrels and taps, 
and by only giving it into careful hands ; and in the 
second place it is drinkable, and at critical times 
may prove a strong temptation to the best of men. 
But this, again, may be prevented. by adding enough 
wood-naphtha to make it unpleasant, as we in fact 

The idea of our cooker was originally taken from 
that used by the Greely expedition, and after a 
number of experiments made with the assistance of 
a friend, I determined finally to adopt the apparatus 
which is represented by the accompanying drawing. 
This drawing wiU, no doubt, make the construction 
quite intelligible. At the bottom is the -heating- 




chamber, containing a spirit-lamp with several wicks. 
The air enters by a number of holes at the bottom in 
sufficient quantity to ensure complete combu'stion, and, 
as it must itself pass through or near the flames, it is 
either consumed or heated to such an extent that no 
cold air can enter the apparatus. Should it be neces- 
sary, owing to the overheating of 
the lampj to let some cold air in, 
this can be done by holes in the 
sides of the hot chamber. This, 
I am sorry to say, we allowed to 
happen too often. The boiler, 
which is placed upon the hot 
chamber, was of copper and tin- 
lined. It was a tall cylindrical 
vessel with a copper flue running 
through the centre, by means of 
which the heated air is passed from the lower chamber 
up to the bottom of a broader and shallower copper 
vessel which was placed over the boiler and used to 
melt snow in. Thus the air, having delivered a great 
part of its warmth in the boiler flue and on to the 
bottom of the snow-melter, eventually escapes through 
holes in the sides just below the latter. 

The boiler and the melter were both cased in thick 
felt, and the latter was also provided with a lid. 

With snow at about— 20° !Fahr., and with the air at 



something like the same temperature, it would take 
an hour or more before I had the boiler full of boiling 
chocolate and the upper vessel full of water at a tem- 
perature a little above the melting point of ice. The 
quantities would be a little more than a gallon of 
chocolate and rather less water, while to obtain this- 
result I had to use about ten or eleven ounces of spirit ^ 
but careful management was necessary. Experiments 
made after our return home showed me that our 
cooker made use of only 52 per cent, of the alcohol 
consumed. This is, of course, a somewhat extrava- 
gant use of fuel, though previous expeditions do not 
seem to have been much more successful. Yet there 
is no doubt that further improvements in this direc- 
tion will lead to a-considerable reduction, in the con- 
sumption of spirit. 

By way of making the heat of the body do some 
of the work of melting snow, each of us had a tin flask 
of a flat and slightly concave form, which could be 
carried at the breast without inconvenience. 

The provisions of a sledge expedition must neces- 
sarily consist to a large extent of dried articles of food, 
as they contain most nourishment in proportion to 
their weight. Preserved things in tins are no doubt 
more wholesome and easily digestible, but they are 
much too heavy and can be made little use of. 

I had previously reckoned that we should need 


per day rather more than half a pound of dried meat, 
about the same amount of fatty food, and a little more 
of dried bread or biscuit, and that with the addition of 
various things hke chocolate, sugar, peptonised meat, 
pea-soup, and so on, the whole daily ration would 
reach two pounds and a quarter or a little more. 

This amount would no doubt also have proved 
sufficient if we had only had the proper quantities of 
each kind of food, but, owing to a misunderstanding, 
there was a want of fatty stuffs, which caused us a 
good deal of inconvenience. Herr Beauvais of Copen- 
hagen, who was to provide our pemmican, informed 
me that he was accustomed to prepare it in the 
usual way. I had no opportunity of seeing him 
personally, but, supposing that his pemmican, like the 
ordinary preparation, would consist of dried meat 
and fat in equal quantities, or would contain at least 
a third part of the latter, I ordered the necessary 
amount of him. As I was passing through Copen- 
hagen just before we started I learned that his pem- 
mican was carefully purified of all fat. This was an 
unpleasant surprise, but, as we had a certain quantity 
of butter as well as some liver ' p&te ' of a very fatty 
nature, I thought we should get on well enough. 
However, it proved a very short supply, and in the 
end we suffered from a craving for fat which can 
scarcely be realised by anyone who has not experi- 


enced it. In other respects Beauvais' dried meat was 

On the advice of Captain Hovgaard, I tried the 
same manufacturer's ' leverpostei,' which I may say is 
not the Strasburg luxury, but a humbler preparation 
of calf-liver. However, I found it quite unsuited to 
our needs : in the first place, because it is much too 
heavy in comparison to its nutritive value ; and 
secondly, because it contains water which freezes and 
makes it unconscionably hard. On ours we broke 
several knives, and we had eventually to take to the 
axe ; but then it was necessary to go round afterwards 
to gather up the fragments, which flew far and wide 
over the snow. 

We found Eousseau's meat-powder chocolate es- 
pecially useful, as it is both nourishing and palatable. 
I took 45 lbs. of it, which I ordered of the manufac- 
turer in Paris. The analysis of this chocolate, shows 
that it contains as much as 20 .per cent, of meat 
powder. It certainly had a particular invigorating 
effect upon us, and if a sufiicient amount of fat were 
taken with it, and it were given in small quantities, it 
would prove a most excellent food for men while on 
the move. As compared with pemmican we found it 
very easy of digestion. This is a quality which has 
both advantages and disadvantages. If any substance 
is too easily digested, it is taken into the body at once, 


the stomach becomes empty again, and a feeling of 
hunger ensues. On the other hand, many people will 
find a substance like pemmican too hard to digest, 
and in such cases a large amount of nutriment will be 
passed through without doing its proper work. But 
easily digestible substances have, on the whole, a, 
greater nutritive value in proportion to their weight 
than such as are less readily assimilable, and there- 
fore it must be considered that the possession of the ■ 
former quality in an article of food is a strong re- 
commendation for its use by Arctic travellers. 

As bread we used partly the Swedish biscuit 
known as ' knakkebrod,' which is very light and has 
not that dryness of taste which causes a feeling of 
thirst, and partly meat biscuits. These had to be 
specially ordered in England, and contained a certaip. 
percentage of meat powder as well as flour. They 
proved palatable as well as nourishing. 

For warm drink, which, though no necessity, is 
undoubtedly a great comfort, we generally used 
chocolate in the morning and pea-soup in the evening. 
The chocolate was, of course, not made of the above- 
mentioned French preparation, but of ordinary choco- 
late flavoured with vanilla. For pea-soup we used 
the German ' Erbsenwurst,' which was ' supplied by 
A. Schorke & Co. of Gorlitz. We also used the 
similar preparations, " Bohnenwurst ' and' ' Linsen- 


wurst,' all of which contain bacon and ham as well as 
the main ingredients : peas, beans, and lentils. I tried 
something analogous manufactured in London, but it 
contained no fat, which was the ingredient which 
made the German preparations so palatable to us. 

We also took tea and coffee, the latter in the form 
of extract, of which we had rather more than a quart. 
After haying tried this two or three times in the 
afternoon and evening, and found that, though it made 
us feel better and cheered us up for the time, we got 
little or no sleep in the night afterwards, I confined 
its use to a morning every now and then. But, as it 
did not seem to suit us even at this time of day, it 
was finally tabooed altogether, till we had almost 
reached the west coast, much to the consternation 
and despair of the Lapps. Its effect upon us, Lapps 
'included, was indeed astonishing. This was no doubt 
due to the empyreumatic oils — caffeone, for instance, 
the poisonous properties of which are well kno"v\ii. 
It seems probable that the extract, owing to the 
peculiar manner of preparation employed, contains 
these deleterious substances in far greater proportion 
than coffee made in the ordinary way ; while, on the 
other hand, the quantity of caffeine, the effect of which 
is sedative, is for the same reason diminished. 

Tea as far as I can judge does considerably less 
harm and is besides a very refreshing drink. We 


often .i;sed weak tea with condensed milk or a little 
sugar, especially in the morning, after all our choco- 
late, was gone. 

My experience, however, leads me to take a de- 
cided stand against the use of stimulants and narco- 
tics of all kinds, from tea and coffee on the one hand, 
to tobacco and alcoholic drinks on the other. It 
niust be a sound principle at all times that one should 
live in as natural and simple a way as possible, and 
especially must this be the case when the life is a 
life of severe exertion in an extremely cold climate. 
The idea that one gains by stimulating body and 
mind by artificial means betrays in my opinion not 
only ignorance of the simplest physiological laws, 
but also a want of experience, or perhaps a want of 
capacity to learn from experience by observation. It 
seems indeed quite simple and obvious that one can 
get nothing in this life without paying for it in one 
way or another, and that artificial stimulants, even 
if they had not the directly injurious effect which 
*they undoubtedly have, can produce nothing but a 
temporary excitement followed by a corresponding 
reaction. Stimulants of this kind, with the exception 
of chocolate, which is mild in its effect and at the 
same time nourishing, bring practically no nutritive 
substance into the body, and the energy which one 
obtains in anticipation by their use at one moment 


must be paid for. by a corresponding exhaustion at 
the next. It may no doubt be advanced that there 
are occasions when a momentary supply of energy 
is necessary, but to this I would answer that I cannot 
imagine such . a state of things arising in the course 
of a protracted sledge-expedition, when, on the con- 
trary, as regular and steady work as possible is 
generally the main thing to be aimed at. 

To many all this will no doubt appear so plain 
and obvious that it is scarcely necessary for me tq 
touch upon the subject. But at the same time it 
must be remembered that even in recent years Arctic 
expeditions have set out from home with large supplies 
not only of tobacco, but of such fatal stimulants as 
alcoholic drinks. For themost characteristic example 
of this tendency one need only turn to the list of 
drinkables taken by the second German Polar Ex- 
pedition on the two ships ' Germania ' and ' Hansa.' 
It is sad, indeed, when a wrong principle of this kind 
leads to such terrible consequences as it did in the 
Greely Expedition, the last great tragedy in the his- 
tory of Arctic exploration. When one reads, for 
instance, how the plucky Sergeant Eice, famished, 
frozen, and tired to death, imagines he can save him- 
self by a dose of rum, to which he has even added 
ammonia, the very worst thing he could have hit 
upon, and then dies shortly afterwards in the arms of 


his friend Frederick, who is meanwhile stripping him- 
self of his own clothes, down to his very shirt, in his 
attempts to thaw his comrade's stiffening limbs, one 
cannot but be moved to the very heart at the thought 
of so much energy, courage, and noble self-sacrifice 
being thus Uselessly thrown away. The melancholy 
debauches which the men on this expedition were 
guilty of when driven to excess by their inhospitable 
surroundings, and the continual imminence of death 
and destruction, I wiU not touch upon. Besides 
reducing the power of endurance and exercising a 
directly injurious influence by lowering the tempera- 
ture of the body and weakening the activity of the 
digestive organs, alcohol also destroys energy and 
lessens the spirit of enterprise, and this not least 
when men, like those under Greely, are perishing of 
starvation and exhaustion. 

But what is to be said when an experienced 
Arctic traveller like Julius Payer writes in his book 
on the Austrian and Hungarian Polar Expedition of 
1872-1874, that ' a small daily allowance of rum is 
almost indispensable on a sledge-expedition of any 
length, especially when the temperature is extremely 
low ' ? As if it were not just in low temperatures that 
spirits are most injurious, and as if it were not known 
that they cause a reduction of bodily heat instead of 
an increase of it, as many people -are inclined to 


think, because such, things ' warm them up,' as they 
say, and because they feel warm and comfortable 
after a good dinner supplemented by plenty of strong 

It is often supposed that, even though spirits are 
not intended for daily use, they ought to be taken 
upon an expedition for medicinal purposes. I would 
readily acknowledge this if anyone could show me a 
single case in which such a remedy is necessary ; but 
tin this is done I shall maintain that this pretext is 
not suificient, and that the best course is to banish 
alcoholic drinks from the list of necessaries for an 
Arctic expedition. 

Though tobacco is less destructive than alcohol, 
still, whether it is smoked or chewed, it has an 
•extremely harmful effect upon men who are engaged 
in severe physical exertion, and not least so when 
the supply of food is not abundant. Tobacco has 
not only an injurious influence upon the digestion, 
but it lessens the strength of the body, and reduces 
nervous power, capacity for endurance, and tenacity 
of purpose. With regard to the complete prohibi- 
tion of tobacco in Arctic work, there is one cir- 
cumstance to be borne in mind which has not to 
be considered in connexion with spirits, as habitual 
hard drinkers are scarcely likely to take part in these 
expeditions : the circumstance that most men are so 


accustomed to its use that they will keenly feel the 
want of it. For this reason it would probably be 
advisable not to make the change too sudden, but to 
limit the use by degrees, and at the same timej, 
perhaps, not to take excessive smokers and chewefs, 
of tobacco upon such expeditions at all. -. -;■ , 

' Among us, four were smokers, Eavna and I being, 
the exceptions, but our supply of tobacco was, but 
small. During the crossing only one pipe waS' 
allowed on Sundays and other specially solemn 

Our other provisions, over and above those which 
I have already mentioned, consisted of butter, some 
' rsekling,' or dried strips of halibut, which is .of a 
very fat nature, Gruyere cheese, the Norwegian 
' mysost,' ^ two boxes of oatmeal biscuits, some ' tyitte- 

' These tljree peculiar Soandinavian products deserve a word of 
special mention. ' Mysost,' literally ' whey-cheese,' is a substance 
bearing a strong resemblance in colour and consistency to a buff or 
brown soap, and is a famUiar object to all travellers in Norway. 
By protracted boiling the whey of cow's, or preferably goat's milk is 
gradually reduced to a thick porridge-like mass, which is finally dried 
and compressed in oblong moulds. The cheese, which really consists 
of sugar-of-milk together with a certain amount of fatty matter and a 
few salts, is therefore scarcely a true cheese, as the curd element is 
almost if not entirely wanting. The ' tyttebser ' (Vaccinium, vitis idma) 
is the commonest and most valuable of Soandinavian wild fruits.. 
Though the berries are exported to England from Norway and Sweden 
and there sold as cranberries, apparently for want of a familiar English 
specific name, or possibly from sheer ignorance on the part of buyer and 
seller alike, they are very different from the fruit of the true 
cranberry {Oxycoccos palustris), which has a very distinct habit and 


bser ' or red whortleberry jam, some dried ' karvekaal ' 
or caraway shoots, some peptonised meat, eight 
pounds of sugar, a few tins of condensed milk, and 
a few other things, all in small quantities. 

We were also presented by the Stavanger Pre- 
serving Company with some tins of provisions, which 
we_much enjoyed while we were drifting in the ice, 
and afterwards while we wer6 working our way in 
tlie boats up the coast again. This extra supply we 
had to some extent to thank for the fact that our 
provisions, which were calculated to last for two 
months,, actually held out for two months and a half, 
that is to say, from the time we left the ' Jason ' till 
Sverdrup and I reached Godthaab. Indeed, we 
really had a good deal left at the end, especially of 
dried meat, and some of us used these remnants long 
after we had reached our winter-quarters. Of the 
dried meat which had passed the ' Inland ice ' there 
was --even some left at Christmas. 

In connexion with the provision supply I may 
also mention our two double-barrelled guns with 
their ammunition. Each of them had a barrel for ball 
of about '300 calibre, and a shot barrel of 20-bore. 

place of growth, and in Norway at least is comparatively unoommon, 
— Earvehaal is the popular name for the yomig shoots of -the caraway 
plant {Ca/rum Ca/rui), which is fomid wild in great abimdance in many 
parts of Norway, and is held in considerable estimation as a spring 

VOL. I. F 


The small calibre of these barrels allowed of a 
considerable reduction in the weight of the ammuni- 
tion, and I found, the guns perfectly satisfactory, 
whether for seal or sea-birds. They would have been 
quite suificient for bear also in the hands of a good 
shot, for here as at other times the most important 
factor is the man behind the sights. Our guns were 
intended as well to procure us food on the east coast, 
especially if it had been necessary to pass the winter 
there — and with this in view I had thought of leaving 
a cac]ie of ammunition Avith one gun on the eastern 
side — as to give us a supply of fresh meat on the 
west coast if we did not find people at once. For, 
given the sea-coast, a gun, and something to put in it, 
therfe need never be a lack of food. 

The scientific instruments of the expedition con- 
sisted first of a theodolite, an excellent instrument by 
a Christiania maker. It was certainly heavy, about 
7 lbs. in itself, and had a stand which weighed little 
less, but, on the other hand, it proved exceedingl}' 
trustworthy for both terrestrial and astronomical 
observations. In future I should prefer to have the 
theodolite, as well as other instruments, made of 
aluminium, which would save much in weight, 

The sextant was a nice little pocket instrument 
by Perken, Son, and Eayment, of London, which did 
excellent service. For the artificial horizon we used 


mercury, which never froze ' at mid-day. The great 
weight of mercury leads me to thiuk that oil, for 
instance, would be more serviceable for this purpose. 

The rest included an azimuth dial with three 
compasses, for the testing of magnetic deviation 
as well as for trigonometrical observations ; five 
pocket-compasses ; three aneroid barometers from 
the above-mentioned English makers ; and a hypso- 
meter or boiling-point barometer, with the necessary 

The principle of this last barometer depends 
upoii the accurate determination of the boiling-point 
of pure water, which, as is well known, varies wit 
the atmospheric pressure, and therefore, of course, 
with the altitude. I found this a particularly con- 
venient form of barometer, and its inconsiderable 
weight makes it especially suitable for an expedition 
like ours, whereas a mercurial instrument would be 
■ much too heavy and difficult to transport. 

Our thermometers consisted of six special instru- 
ments intended to be tied to strings and whirled 
rapidly round in the air. The bulb is thus brought 
into contact with so many particles of air that the 
effect of the sun's rays upon it may be almost dis- 
regarded, and the temperature of the air can thus 
easily be taken in the full sunshine. 

If the bulb of one of these sling-thermometers be 

F 2 


covered with, a piece of some thin stuff like gauze 
and then wetted, one can readily find the degree of 
moisture present in the air by comparison with a 
dry-bulb instrument. 

We had, besides the above, a minimum and an 
ordinary alcohol thermometer, both presented us by 
a Christiania maker. 

Our time-keepers were four ordinary watches of 
the half-chronometer movement. The usual chrono- 
ijaeter-watches are scarcely suitable for such work, 
as in certain positions they are liable to stop. "We 
were in fact exceedingly unlucky with our watches, 
as one of them, owing to a fall, stopped entirely, 
another for the same reason apparently became 
somewhat inaccurate, and a third, an old watch of 
my own, came to a stand-still, probably for want of 
cleaning. The fourth, however, stood the whole 
journej'' well and proved an excellent time-keeper. 

I consider that the expedition was particularly 
well equipped in the way of instruments, and this 
was to a large extent due to Professor H. Mohn, the 
Director of the Meteorological Institute at Chris- 
tiania, who gave the most unremitting attention to 
the question of our scientific outfit. 

At the request of Professor Pettersson, of Stock- 
holm, I took on his behalf the necessary apparatus 
for obtaining samples of air during our journey. 


This consisted chiefly of a number of moderate-sized 
glass cylinders carefully exhausted of air and her- 
metically sealed. On being opened they were of 
course at once filled, and the vessels were so arranged 
that they could be easily sealed again by the help of 
a spirit-lamp and a blow-pipe. The air obtained 
could thus be transported any distance in its original 

A necessary addition to the outfit of a modern 
exploring party is, of course, a photographic appa 
ratus. I took a little camera to use with the theodo- 
lite stand, two roll-holders for Eastman's American 
stripping films, and ten rolls of twenty-four exposures 
each. The camera alone weighed two-and-a-quarter 
pounds. I made about 150 exposures, and on the 
whole was well satisfied with the apparatus and the 
results.- Glass plates would, of course, have been 
much too heavy and inconvenient. I also had two 
red lamps, one of glass and the other of paper, for 
changing the rolls, and a few stearine candles to use 
in them. 

Our remaining instruments, tools, and other things 
included two pairs of aluminium glasses and a couple 
of pedometers ; an axe, with various smaller imple- 
ments, such as knives, files, awls, pincers, screwdriver, 
small screws for the steel plates under the sledge- 
runners, a sailmaker's palm, sewing materials, and so 


on ; scales for weighing out the rations ; Tyrolese 
crampons or ' steigeisen,' ice-nails for our boots, 
Manilla-rope for the crevasses, as well as other cords 
for the sledges and various purposes ; ice-axes with 
bamboo-shafts, which were also used as ' ski '-staffs ; a 
spade for the snow, to screw on to one of these shafts ; 
several bamboos for masts and steering purposes 
while our sledges and boats were under sail, and 
block-tackle for hoisting the boats and sledges when 
necessary ; drawing materials, sketch- and note-books ; 
a table of logarithms ; nautical almanacs for 1888 and 
1889; burning-glass, flint and steel, and matches, 
which latter were partly packed in air-tight tin boxes, 
and kept here and there among the baggage in order 
that, if we lost some, we should still have enough left ; 
three cans of methylated spirit holding rather more 
than two gallons apiece; tarpaulins, some of water- 
proof canvas, and others of oil-cloth, to cover the 
sledges ; six bags intended for making portages over 
difficult ground, but really used as portmanteaus for 
each member's private effects ; long boat-hooks of 
bamboo, as well as short ones, which could also be 
used as paddles and proved exceedingly serviceable 
in narrow water-ways ; oars, reserve swivel-rowlocks, 
and a hand-pump and hose to bale the boats with when 
they were loaded. Finally, we had a little medicine- 
chest containing splints and bandages for broken 


limbs, chloroform, cocaine in solution for the alle- 
viation of pain from snow-blindness, toothache drops, 
pills, vaseline, and a few other things, all of course 
reduced to a minimum of weight. 

Finally, I may say that four of our sledges when 
fully loaded averaged some 200 pounds, while the 
fifth amounted to nearly double as much. 

In April we made a little experimental trip up 
into the woods near Christiania, all the members of 
the party except one being present. Balto's descrip- 
tion of the excursion is worth reproducing : — 

' One afternoon we went out of the town up into 
the woods to spend the night there, and try the rein- 
deer-skin sleeping bags. In the evening, when we 
had reached the wood where we were to pass the 
night, we put up our tent. Then it w'as said that we 
were going to make coffee in a machine to be heated 
by spirit. So the pot of this machine was filled with 
snow, and we lighted the lamp beneath. It went on 
burning for several hours, but never managed to 
produce a boil. So we had to try and drink the 
lukewarm water with coffee extract added to it. It 
did not taste of anything whatever, for it was ahnost 
cold. At night when it was time to sleep, the four 
Norwegians crawled into the bags, and Nansen offered 
us places, there too, but we were afraid it would be 


too hot. We did not want bags to sleep in, we 
thought, and so we lay down outside. In the morning 
I woke about six and saw our men sleeping like bears 
in their sacks. So I lay down again and slept till 
nine, when I woke the others, for I knew that a 
horse had been ordered to take us back at ten.' 

This description shows plainly enough that cer- 
tain parts of our outfit, as our cooking-machine, for 
instance, were not so satisfactory as they might have 
been, but there was plenty of time left for improve- 
ments. We gave our best attention to the matter, 
and when we actually started at the beginning of 
May, after having procured several important things 
at the eleventh hour, we had nearly everything in the 
desired state of efficiency, and plenty of time during 
our voyage to finish all that was not yet ready. 




The expedition I am about to describe owed its 
origin entirely to the Norwegian sport of ' skilob- 
ning.' ^ I have myself been accustomed to the use 
of ' ski ' since I was four years old, every one of my 
companions was an experienced ' skilober,' and all 
our prospects of success were based upon the superi- 
ority of ' ski ' in comparison with all other means of 
locomotion when large tracts of snow have to be 
traversed. I therefore think that I cannot do better 
than set apart a chapter for the description of ' ski ' 
and the manner of their use, since so little is known 
about the sport outside the few countries where it is 
practised as such, and since a certain amount of 
familiarity with it and its technical terms will be 
necessary to the full comprehension of some part of 
the narrative which follows. 

It is, of course, not unnatural that those who 
have never seen the performance should be surprised 
to learn that a man can by the help of two pieces of 

' See note to page 3. 


wood, shaped for the purpose, progress as rapidly- 
over the surface of the snow as he really does. This' 
point is quaintly touched upon by the author of the 
old Norse treatise ' Kongespeilet,' ^ who in discussing 
the question of the existence of flying dragons tamed 
to the service of man, away in the Indies, observes 
that, though this may seem strange indeed to his 
countrymen, there are corresponding marvels to be 
found among them which may seem even more 
astonishing to the folk of other lands ; and he goes on 
to say : — 

' But even more marvellous will it seem to them 
when they hear of men who can tame to their service 
pieces of wood or thin boards in such a way that a 
man who is no speedier of foot than his fellows when 
he has shoes on his feet, or indeed is without shoes, 
can, nevertheless, as soon as he has bound beneath 
his feet boards six or eight feet in length, outstrip 
the birds in flight, or the swiftest hounds, or even the 
reindeer, which is itself twice as swift as the hart. 

' Kongespeilet is the modern Norwegian name for the ' Kontings 
Skuggsia ' or ' King's Mirror,' a didactic treatise by an unknown 
author hailing from Helgeland in Northern Norway, the date of which 
is now generally referred to the thirteenth century. One of the two 
sections of the treatise which were completed is concerned with ' Court 
Manners,' while the other, ostensibly taking for its subject the less 
appropriate theme of ' Chapmen,' also contains a most interesting and 
valuable digression on the physical history of Iceland, Greenland, etc., 
as well as an account of divers northern phenomena. 


For there are many men who are so swift upon their 
" ski " that they can strike down with the spear nine 
reindeer as they speed by in their course, and there- 
after even more. This, indeed, is a thing which will 
seem marvellous, nay incredible and absurd, in all 
those lands where folk know not the art and cunning 
whereby boards can be trained to this great speed ; 
who know not that on the mountains there is nothing 
among things which run upon the . face of the earth 
which can outstrip or escape the pursuit of that 
man who has boards beneath his feet, even though he 
be left no whit swifter than other men as soon as he 
has taken the boards from off his feet. But in other 
lands, where folk know not this art, no man will be 
found so swift but that he will lose all his swiftness 
as soon as these boards are bound to his feet. But 
we do know these things for a certainty, and as soon 
as snow comes to us in the winter season we have 
oftentimes occasion to see men who are skilled in 
this art.' 

' Ski,' then, as will have been already gathered, 
are long narrow strips of wood, those used in Norway 
being from three to four inches in breadth, eight feet 
more or less in length, one inch in thickness at the 
centre under the foot, and bevelling off to about a 
quarter of an inch at either end. In front they are 
curved upwards and pointed, and they are sometimes 


a little turned up at the back end too. Tlie sides 
are more or less parallel, though the best forms have 
their greatest width in front, just where the upward 
curve begins, but otherwise they are quite straight 
and flat, and the under surface is made as smooth as 
possible. The attachinent consists of a loop for the 
toe, made of leather or some other substance, and 
fixed at about the centre of the ' ski,' and a band 
which passes from this round behind the heel of the 
shoe. The principle of this fastening is to make the 
' ski ' and foot as rigid as possible for steering pur- 
poses, while the heel is allowed to rise freely from 
the ' ski ' at all times. 

On flat ground the ' ski ' are driven forward by a 
peculiar stride, which in its elementary form is not 
difficult of acquirement, though it is capable of 
immense development. They are not lifted, and the 
tendency which the beginner feels to tramp away 
with them as if he were on mud-boards in the middle 
of a marsh must be strenuously resisted. Lifting 
causes the snow to stick to them, so they must be 
pushed forwards over its surface by alternate strokes 
from the hips and thighs, the way being maintained 
between the strokes by a proper management of the 
body. The ' ski ' are kept strictly parallel meanwhile, 
and as close together as possible, there being no 
resemblance whatever, as is sometimes supposed, to 



the motion employed in skating. In the hand most 
' skilobers ' carry a short staff, which is used partly 


{From a photograph) 


to correct deficiencies of balance, but hf the more 
skilful chiefly to increase the length of the stride by 
propulsion. In many country districts this pole often 
reaches a preposterous length, and in some parts, too, 
a couple of short staffs are used, one in each hand, 
by the help of which, on comparatively flat ground, 
great speed can be obtained. When the snow is in 
thoroughly good condition the rate of progress is 
quite surprising, considering the small amount of 
effort expended, and as much as eight or nine miles 
can be done within the hour, while a speed of seven 
miles an hour can be maintained for a very consider- 
able length of time. 

Uphill the pace is of course ver}^ much slower, 
though here also the practised ' skilober ' has great 
advantages over all others. Here the ' ski ' must be 
lifted slightly, as the snow sticking to them counter- 
acts the tendency to slip backwards. If the gradient 
be steep, various devices may be employed, the most 
effectual, and characteristic being that shown in the 
annexed illustration. The ' ski ' are turned outwards 
at as wide an . angle as the steepness of the slope 
renders advisable, and are advanced alternately one 
in front of the other, the track left in the snow- 
exactly resembling the feather-stitch of needlewomen. 
This" method requires some practice, and cannot be 
•employed if the ' ski ' are above a certain length, as 



the heels will then necessarily overlap. By its means 
a slope of any gradient on which the snow will lie 
may be ascended quickly and easily, but the position 

^ ^**-^ Ala: 

(Btf E. Niel&m, after a photograph) 

is somewhat too strained to be maintained for long. 
Another and easier, though much slower way, is to 
mount the hill sideways, bringing the ' ski ' ahnost, 
if not quite, to a right angle with the slope, and 


working up step by step. Or again, especially on the 
open mountain, the ' skilober ' will work his way up- 
wards by tacking from side to side and following a 
zigzag course, taking instinctively the most advan- 
tageous line of ascent. In any case, if he be up to 
his work he will cover the ground quickly and with- 
out undue exertion, and, as a matter of fact, as Olaus 
Magnus wrote in 1555, ' there is no mountain so high 
but that by cunning devices he is able to attain unto 
the summit f hereof.' 

Downhill, the ' ski ' slide readily and are left to 
themselves, the one thing necessary being to maintain 
the balance and steer clear of trees, rocks, and preci- 
pices. The steeper the slope the greater the speed, 
and if the snow be good the friction is so slight that 
the pace often approaches within a measurable dis- 
tance of that of a falling body. The author of 
' Kongespeilet,' above quoted, was speaking not alto- 
gether at random when he described the ' skilober ' 
as outstripping the birds in flight, and declared 
that nothing which runs upon the earth can escape 
his pursuit. 

The snow is not by any means always in a good 
condition for ' skilobning,' and its moods are very 
variable and capricious. Wet snow due to a mild 
temperature is particularly unfavourable as it sticks 
fast to the under surface of the ' ski,' especially if 


they are not covered with, skin, and will often accu- 
mulate into a mass ten inches or a foot thick, the 
weight of which makes progress terribly laborious 
or well-nigh impossible. This is a fate which has 
befallen many an unlucky ' skilober ' when he has 
been out on the open mountain, or more especially 
in the deep loose snow of the forest, and a sudden 
rise of temperature has surprised him when many 
miles distant from a habitation. 

Nor do the ' ski ' move readily on newly fallen 
snow the temperature of which is not sufficiently 
low, though even when it falls in extreme cold it has 
a tendency to stick. The same is the case with 
snow raised from the ground and driven by the 
wind. The particles are then as fine as dust, and as 
they pack into drifts they form a peculiar cloth-like 
surface on which ordinary wooden ' ski ' will scarcely 
move at all. This is worst of all when the snow has 
originally fallen at a low temperature, as the par- 
ticles are then extremely fine in the first instance, 
before the wind has had any effect on them. This 
Was the kind of snow we had to deal with during 
nearly the whole of our crossing of the ' Inland ice,' 
and the reason why our progress was so very slow 
and wearisome. 

But besides being slippery the surface must also 
be tolerably firm, or the ' ski ' will sink too deep. 

VOL. I. G 


Snow that has fallen during a thaw, has had time to 
sink and pack well together and has then been exposed 
to frost, is in excellent condition for the purposes of 
the ' skilober.' Things are even more favourable when 
a frost succeeding a rapid thaw has turned the surface 
into a hard, icy crust, and if this is subsequently- 
covered with an inch or so of newly-faUen snow, or 
preferably hoar-frost, the going reaches the pure 
ideal, and the pace which may then be obtained 
without effort is simply astonishing. If this crust lie, 
as it often does, bare of loose snow or rime, the ' ski ' 
slide fast enough, but have no proper hold on the 
surface, and the pace on rough and difficult ground 
may very soon become uncontrollable and dangerous. 
Of all the sports of Norway, ' skilobning ' is the 
most national and characteristic, and I cannot think 
that I go too far when I claim for it, as practised in 
our country, a position in the very first rank of the 
sports of the world. I know no form of sport which 
so evenly develops the muscles, which renders the 
body so strong and elastic, which teaches so well the 
qualities of dexterity and resource, which in an 
equal degree calls for decision and resolution, and 
which gives the same vigour and exhilaration to 
mind and body alike. Where can one find a healthier 
and purer delight than when on a brilliant winter 
day one binds one's ' ski ' to one's feet and takes one's 



way out into the forest? Can there be anything 
more beautiful than the northern winter landscape. 

{From a drawing by A. Block) 

when the snow lies foot-deep, spread as a soft white 
mantle over field and wood and hill ? Where will 

e 2 


one find more freedom and excitement than when one 
glides swiftly down the hillside through the trees, 
one's cheek brushed by the sharp cold air and frosted 
pine branches, and one's eye, brain, and muscles 
alert and prepared to meet every unknown obstacle 
and danger which the next instant may throw in 
one's path ? Civilisation is, as it were, washed clean 
from the mind and left far behind with the city atmo- 
sphere and city life ; one's whole being is, so to say, 
wrapped in one's ' ski ' and the surrounding nature. 
There is something in the whole which develops soul 
and not body alone, and the sport is perhaps of far 
greater national importance than is generally sup- 

Nor can there be many lands so well fitted as ours 
for the practice of ' skilobning,' and its fuU develop- 
ment as a sport. The chief requisites are hills and 
snow, and of these we have indeed an abundance. 
Erom our childhood onwards we are accustomed to 
use our ' ski,' and in many a mountain valley boys, 
and girls too for that matter, are by their very sur- 
roundings forced to take to their ' ski ' almost as 
soon as they can walk. The whole long winter 
through, from early autumn to late spring, the snow 
lies soft and deep outside the cottage door. In such 
valleys, and this was especially the case in former 
times, there are few roads or ways of any kind, and 


all, men and women alike, whom business or pleasure 
takes abroad, must travel on their 'ski.' Children no 
more than three or four years old may often be seen 
striving with the first ^difficulties, and from this age 
onwards the peasant boys in many parts keep them- 
selves in constant practice. Their homes lie, as a 
rule, on the steep slope of the valley-side, and hills of 
all grades are ready to hand. To school, which is 
generally held in the winter season, they must go on 
their ' ski,' and on their ' ski ' they all spend the few 
minutes of rest between the hours of work, their 
teacher often joining them and leading the string. 
Then, too, on Sunday afternoons comes the weekly 
festival, when all the youths of the parish, boys and 
young men alike, meet on the hillside to outdo one 
another in fair rivalry, and enjoy their sport to 
the fuU as long as the brief daylight lasts. At such 
times the girls are present as spectators, notwith- 
standing that they too know well how to use their 
' ski,' and that many a good feat has been done ere 
now by Norwegian lasses and gone unrecorded. 

Such is the winter life of the young in many of 
our mountain valleys. The boy has scarcely reached 
the age of breeches before he knows the points of a 
pair of ' ski ' : what a good bit of wood should look 
like, and how to twist a withy to make himself the 
fastenings. Thus he learns early to stand- on his own 


legs and liis own ' ski,' to rely upon himself in 
difficulty, and grows up to be a man like liis father 
before him. May our sport long be held in honour, 
may its interests be cared for and advanced as long 
as there remain men and women in the Norwegian 
valleys ! 


'4 'n //"' 



^" . 'I'. -4%'f' 

(Btf A. Block, after a photograph) 

But it is especially for the winter pursuit of game 
that ' ski ' are an absolute necessity in Norway as 
well as the North of Europe generally and Siberia, and 
it is in this way that most of the clever ' skilobers ' 
of countrv districts have been formed. 


In earlier times it was a common practice in 
Scandinavia to hunt the larger animals, such as- the 
elk and reindeer, during the winter upon ' ski.' 
When the snow was deep the skilful ' skilober ' had 
no great difficulty in pursuing and killing these 
animals, as their movements, as compared with his, 
were naturally much hampered. It was an excit- 
ing sport, however, and often required considerable 
strength and endurance on the part of the hunter, as 
well as a thorough familiarity with the use of ' ski.' 
Now, however, these animals are protected during 
the winter, and aU pursuit of them is illegal, though 
doubtless there is still a good deal of poaching done 
in this way, especially in the case of elk, in the 
remoter forests of Sweden and Norway. 

Nowadays the Norwegian peasant has most use 
for his ' ski ' in the less exciting pursuit of the ptar- 
migan and willow-grouse, large numbers of which 
are shot and snared upon the mountains. The 
snaring in some districts is especially remunerative, 
and is often the only channel through which the 
poor cottagers can attain to the rare luxury of a 
little ready money. The hare is also sometimes 
thus hunted and shot, the bear turned out of his lair 
or intercepted before he has finally taken to his 
winter quarters, and an occasional lynx or glutton 
pursued. It is, of course, on ' ski ' too that the 


nomad Lapps follow and destroy their inveterate 
enemy, the wolf. 

The Siberian tribes again do all their winter hunt- 
ing upon ' ski,' and as with them the winter is the 
longest season of the year, the great importance, 
if not absolute necessity, of ' ski ' to the arctic and 
sub-arctic peoples will readily be seen. 

' Skilobning ' is an old sport in Norway — how old 
it is impossible to say, for history fails to take us to 
its origin. The legends connected with the settle- 
ment of our land tell us that our ancestor Nor and 
his followers waited in Finland till the snow came 
and they could use their ' ski,' and then they passed 
into the country by the northern way, or round the 
Gulf of Bothnia. These legends are, however, of 
comparatively late date, and their evidence is there- 
fore of not much account. But the whole of the 
old Norse literature, the mythological, biographical, 
and historical Sagas alike, abound with references to 
' ski ' and their use. From the purport of many of 
these references there seems to be little doubt that 
our people originally learned the use of ' ski ' from 
their neighbours the Lapps, and that ' skilobning ' 
was generally practised in the northern parts of 
Norway at least as early as in the tenth century. 
The poems of this date show, too, that in our old 
mythology, the sport had it? representatives and 


patrons : Skade among the goddesses, and UU among 
the gods. 

In later history ' ski ' are perhaps not quite so 
prominent, though for miUtary, purposes they have 
been in continual use from the adventurous days of 
King Sverre down to the latest of the border struggles 
with Sweden, while in the middle of last century 
special companies of ' skilobers ' were organised and 
kept in admirable training. 

The distribution of the sport in Norway at the 
present day is in the eastern and inland districts 
almost universal, while the want of snow, unsuitability 
of the ground, and changeable climate of the west 
coast have naturally proved very unfavourable to its 
development in those parts. In Sweden, again, the 
general flatness of the country has discouraged the 
growth of the sport, and it is only in the northern 
provinces, and more especially among the Mountain 
Lapps, that it is now much practised. In Finland the 
sport is no doubt of earlier date than in Scandinavia, 
and ' ski ' are also much used by the Finnish popula- 
tion of to-day, while in Eussia there is also a certain 
amount of ' skilobning,' especially among those sec- 
tions of the population which are of Finnish origin 
or connexion. Going further east, we find that 
' ski ' are used over the whole of Northern Asia as 
far as Behring's Straits. In earlier days the sport was 


introduced by the Norwegians into Iceland and 
Greenland, and in modern times they have carried 
it with them to America, where it is cultivated in 
various parts, competitions even being now held in 
the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota.^ 

Though literature and history do not carry us far 
back in a search for the home and origin of ' ski,' the 
science of comparative philology furnishes consider- 
abty more evidence. 

In this connexion my friend Herr Andreas 
Hansen, of the University Library of Christiania, has 
been good enough to make at my instance some 
investigations into the various names by which ' ski ' 
are known among the numerous tribes of Northern 
Asia. His researches have produced results which, if 
not decisive, are extremely interesting and suggestive. 

The subject is of far too special a nature and too 
complicated to be adequately treated here, but a 
short summary will be enough for my purpose. At 
the same time I refer the reader to the accornpanying 

^ In ' Den Norske Turistforenings Arbog ' for 1889 I see that Mr. 
A. Or. Guillemard, in an article on the great waterfalls of the world, 
states that on the Australian continent ' snow is unknown except on 
Mount Kosciusco and the neighbouring uplands and summits of the 
Southern Austrahan Alps in mid-winter, when snow-shoes very similar 
in pattern to the Norwegian " ski " are almost universally used by the 
peasants of the mountainous district round Kiandra.' In want of 
positive evidence on the point I feel tolerably certain that these snow- 
shoes must be a modern introduction by Scandinavian settlers. 

To fane' paae/ 91. 


showirtf^the distributioixof "ski" and tiie names "by wMeli they are kaoTvn ainoiig the various peoples by wIioid. tliey are xiseA. 

Explanatioii ; 
fheqmnapal dosses t{) which the names of 's7<^''<um.l>e^eferredy etymoloffm arc Sx^tbx^idshe^irvthe'iruxp, art^z 

1. sof- ' ■ ^- l"kf< D, h'>h m fkok e 3- solta ■.sxlhx, silie ste - '^ a , tohit^ a 

2. Sii-fitt & i->n_.t ; , hiJfKL 0) • 4. Ivsha , /folysha., gola.Sf haJhzt ><: . 

Lonffman^ & Co. London. & Ne,w Yorhi" 


chart, upon which the names of the tribes are given 
together with the words used by them respectively 
for ' ski.' I may also add for the benefit of the 
uninitiated that lines have been drawn to show 
roughly the routes by which the different peoples and 
tribes are supposed to have arrived at their present 

It seems that all the names of ' ski,' with a few 
exceptions, can be gathered into a sniall number of 
typical groups or classes, which show no obvious 
connexion with each other. The single members of 
these groups occur promiscuously with greater or 
less frequency and at longer or shorter intervals 
throughout the whole of Northern Asia and North- 
Eastern Europe, the same word in one particular 
instance finding its extreme limits in the North of 
Norway on one side and in East Siberia on the other. 
"The most important of these groups are three, 
viz : — 

1. Sok and suk, with their apparent analogues 
tokh, hok, and kok. With sok and suk we may also 
closely connect soks and suks, as well as suksi [siihsi), 
sivakka and savek. 

This type of word has the widest distribution of 
all, as we can follow it from the Seas of Japan and 
Okhotsk, where among the Goldes, and the Manikow, 
and Kondogiri-Tunguses it occurs in the compounds 


suh-sylta, sok-solta, suk-sildce, and huk-sille, right 
across to the Baltic Sea where it appears in the 
Finnish suks, suksi, &c. The type is found almost en- 
tirely among the Tunguses and Finno-Ugrian peoples 
as well as with the two Samoiede tribes : Sojotes, 
who have kok, and the Karagasses, who have hok. 

The occurrence of the same word in tracts so 
widely distant is not difficult of explanation if the 
generally accepted view be adopted of the common 
origin of these peoples in the region about Lake 
Baikal and the Altai Mountains. Here ' ski ' must 
have been known at the time when they lived as 
neighbours, and hence they must have carried them 
to the;remote regions which they now inhabit. The 
distance which now separates these peoples precludes 
the possibility of a direct transmission of the word by 
simple borrowing. 

2. Sana, tana, liana. This type is found among 
the Burjats, a tribe reckoned to the true Mongols, 
and with certain Samoiedes by the Eiver Yenisei in 
North-Eastern Siberia. Here again distance renders 
it impossible that any direct borrowing could have 
taken place. But as it is supposed that these 
Samoiede tribes have also migrated from the Baikal 
region, where the Burjats are to be found at this- 
very day, we are at once led to the same explanation' 
of the phenomenon as before. 


3. A third group contains the elements solta, sylta, 
sildce, silk, which are found in the compound words 
of the Goldes and Tunguses : sok-solta, suk-sildce, &c., 
and to these may be added the analogous toldo, tolde, 
and tolds of the Samoiedes. Here again an immense 
distance separates the localities, and we must have 
recourse to the same explanation of a common 

These three groups of words, therefore, and the 
geographical distribution of their members, lead us to 
regard the Baikal and Altai region as the probable 
home of ' ski,' and to ascribe their origin to a period 
of the remotest antiquity, when the five main branches 
of the Mongolian race still lived in mutual proximity. 

As will be seen from the map, there are still a 
number of words which can scarcely be brought into 
analogy with those which have been dealt with 
hitherto. These words, however, occur as a rule 
among tribes which seem linguistically isolated, and 
of whose movements and affinities little or nothing is 
as yet known. 

Lastly, among words of more modern origin and 
spontaneous occurrence may be reckoned the Nor- 
wegian ski and aander (i.e. short skin-covered ' ski ') 
with the Swedish analogues skida and andor, the Eus- 
sian lysha, golyshd, the Polish lyzwa, and the Lettish 
lushes ; all of which are clearly of Aryan parentage. 


From the Eussian golysha, which, means ' bare ski,' i.e. 
' not covered with skin,' evidently comes the Lappish 
golas, and thence by regular modification the Finnish 
halhu, which derivatives suggest that the Lapps and 
Finns have learned to use bare ' ski ' from the 
Eussians. Among the Finns also occurs lyly, which 
like halhu is used of the bare wooden ' ski ' of the 
left foot, and means originally ' a kind of pine- wood,' 
as well as patasma, .which besides sivakka is applied 
to the skin-covered right ' ski,' and signifies ' that 
with which one kicks.' 

We Norwegians have hitherto been somewhat in- 
clined to consider our own country as the cradle and 
home of our dear sport ' skilobning,' but a more 
scientific examination of the question, which- seems 
hitherto never to have been attempted, forces us to 
aUow the unwelcome fact that we must be among the 
youngest of the numerous tribes who have adopted 
the sport, and that we lie on the very outskirts of 
the huge tract of country throughout which the use 
of our familiar ' ski ' seems all but universal. 

Another interesting question, which I will also 
briefly refer to, is the history and gradual evolution of 
the ' ski ' form. The necessity of making progress 
through deep, loose snow has led the inventive faculty 
of man to produce various implements more or less 
adapted to the purpose. These we find in the most 


primitive form in diflferent mountain tracts whicli 
lie really outside the true ' ski ' region. Thus in 
Armenia, according to Xenophon, the natives used to 
bind sacks round their horses' feet to prevent them 
from sinking to the girths in the snow. This was 
one crude device. Strabo, again, tells us that the 
mountaineers of the Southern Caucasus used on their 
feet frames covered, like tambourines, with hide, and 
furnished below with spikes ; while the Ai-menians 
are also described as employing discs of wood with 
spikes beneath them for the same purpose. Again, 
according to Suidas, Arrian records the use of frame- 
works of wicker on each foot among the natives of 
a certain mountainous region, the name of which we 
ard not told. 

These classical allusions give us a hint as to the 
origin of ' ski.' The object being to invent something 
which would prevent the feet from sinking into the 
snow, the simplest device which would effect this 
would naturally be a disc of wood. If this were of 
any size it would much impede progress, and a very 
obvious expedient would be to make the wooden 
plate oblong. From this point there might well be 
a divergence. Either the plate of wood might be 
abandoned altogether in favour of a wicker frame- 
work, such, as that referred to by Arrian, and that 
which still survives in Norway in the form of ' truger,' 


which I described in my last chapter, and this again 
might well be the primitive device out of which 
the elegant form and elaborate workmanship of the 
Indian snowshoe has been developed ; or, another 
direction being taken, the plates of wood may have 
been covered with hide to make them stronger. The 
fact that spikes were used underneath some of these 
contrivances shows that there was no idea of sliding 
in the first instance. But if the hide were employed 
with the hair on, and the spikes were for one reason 
or another omitted, the advantage of acquiring a 
sliding motion on the flat and down gentle slopes 
would no doubt soon be discovered. This is an im- 
portant step for our purpose, for as soon as it was 
found that these more or less clumsy wooden plates 
could be made to glide upon the snow with advantage 
the development of the true ' ski ' had begun. More- 
over, as far as we can learn, the ' ski ' now in use in 
the remote parts of Northern Asia are exceedingly 
short and broad, and it is plain that, as far as shape 
goes, the transition from oblong plates of wood to 
these primitive short ' ski ' would be soon effected. 

It would thus appear that one of the earhest 
forms of ' ski ' was covered with skin, and this form 
is not only still universal over far the greater part ot 
Asia, but it was probably the one in common use 
among the Lapps and in the north of Norway down 


to historical times. In our country it has' almost 
though not quite disappeared, and in this connexion 
I may mention incidentally that a curious transitional 
form is still in use in Osterdalen, one of the eastern 
y alleys of Southern Norway, and the neighbouring 
Swedish districts, one ' ski ' being long and of plain 
wood, and the other short and often covered with 

Our, last speculation thus furnishes us with a 
plausible theory that the original wooden plate has 


differentiated into two forms, one reaching its highest 
development in the wooden frame strung with a net- 
work of sinews, which constitutes the Indian snow-shoe, 
and the other its culmination in the modern sporting 
' ski ' of Norway. It is exceedingly remarkable that 
there is no trace of the true ' ski ' to be found on the 
American continent, the only signs of connexion 
being the narrow oblong snowshoe of Alaska and 
the neighbouring regions, and the very noteworthy 
fact that the Indians have in certain parts discovered 

VOL. I. H 


that skin stretched beneath their snowshoes gives 
them the great advantage of being able to shde down- 

The whole subject requires, of course, far fuller 
and more systematic treatment than I have been 
able to give it here. It is strange that this has not 
been done hitherto, but such is the case, notwith- 
standing the really important part which ' ski ' and 
their kindred have evidently played in the history of 
the civilisation of a very considerable portion of the 
northern hemisphere. Here they obviously form one 
of the most important means of communication, and 
make the winter, when the snow, as it were, lays 
bridges between one people and another, the principal 
season of movement and intercourse. 

The various forms of ' ski ' in use in Norway at 
the present time are very numerous. Some are long 
and narrow, some are short and broad ; some are 
hollowed out underneath into one great groove, 
while some have one, two, or three much smaller 
grooves, and others have no groove at all. The 
object of these grooves is to make the ' ski ' run 
steadier, as on beaten roads and hard snow there is 
otherwise likely to be a good deal of lateral move- 
ment. As I have already said, in a few districts in 
Nordland, and there only as far as I can learn, are 
' ski ' covered beneath with skin still in use. These 


skin-clad ' ski ' have one advantage, that they glide 
better when the snow is sticky, and thus may often 
be used when wooden ' ski ' are out of the question. 
And again, as the skin with which they are covered 
has the hair pointing backwards, they do not slip 
back so readily when a hiU is being mounted ; but 
this is a quality of which the skilful ' skilober ' has 
little need. 

1 do not think that any more detailed descrip- 
tion of all these various forms would be in place 
here, but it is a reproach to us that no such de- 
scription as yet exists in our literature, and that we 
cannot show any collection of the numerous 'ski' 
types. This state of things is all the more deplor- 
able because many of the more remarkable forms 
are fast disappearing and giving way to new. 

It is not easy to decide which is really the best of 
these forms, as so much depends ,on the prevailing 
condition of the snow and the nature of the ground 
on which they are to be used. For rapid progress 
in a flat country and on the open mountain plateaux 
long and narrow ' ski ' are best, while on rough, rocky 
ground and in the dense forest it is better to have 
short and broad ' ski,' which can be more easily 
turned and manipulated. In deep, loose snow, again, 
long, broad ' ski ' of some light wood may be used 
with advantage. 

H 2 


The material of whicli ' ski ' are made also varies 
much. In country districts pine, chiefly from the 
Scotch fir, is most used, as being the ordinary avail- 
able timber. Birch is also very common, especially 
in the north, and, besides these, ash, elm, oak, moun- 
tain ash, aspen, willow, and maple are all employed. 
The first three of these latter, and especially ash, 
are in favour with Christiania ' skilobers.' Several 
of these woods have their special good qualities, but 
it is scarcely possible to decide which is absolutely 
the best. Among the peasants a peculiar form of 
pine' is also in use, the wood being taken from trees 
which have grown on the edge of bogs. This is, com- 
pared with ordinary pine-wood, very hard, tough, and 
resinous, and is much sought after. 

Of late years the sport of ' skilobning ' has been 
practised and developed in Norway to quite an 
astonishing extent. This has been no doubt largely 
due to the public competitions which are now annu- 
ally held, and above all to the great meeting of the 
year at Christiania. Here at their first institution 
the Telemarken peasants appeared and completely 
eclipsed the athletes of the capital by their masterly 
skill. In .time, however, their arts were learned by 
the townsfolk, and it has often happened in recent 
years that the tables have been completely turned, 
at least in certain parts of the competition. The 



progress of the sport has oh the whole been quite 
remarkable, and anyone who has followed its develop- 
ment step by step, who can remember how empty and 
desolate the hillsides and forest paths round Christi- 
ania were some fifteen or even ten years ago, and who 
sees how the fields and woods are now thronged on a 
fine winter Sunday with ' skilobers ' of all ages, sexes, 
a,nd conditions, cannot but regard the result of this 
healthy movement with gratification and pride. 

(^From a drawing by E. Nielsen) 

Before this time of resurrection the ' sMstav ' or 
pole of which I have spoken above was generally 
considered quite as necessary a piece of apparatus 
as the ' ski ' themselves. In those days, when the 
pace downhill became too hot to be comfortable, the 
' skilober ' rode his pole like a witch's broomstick ; 
to it he had recourse in all difficulties : it was his 
guide, comforter, and friend in all moments of 
danger and perplexity. It was a good friend, no 


doubt, in need, and is so still even to the orthodox ; 
but this unlimited and servile use of an extra- 
neous support and assistance invariably brings the 
body of the ' skilober ' into a forced and helpless 
position, which entirely deprives him of all control 
over his ' ski ' and of all confidence in the strength 
and power of his own legs. But the Telemarken 
peasant had meantime worked in quite a different 
direction, and had attained to quite a different form. 
When he met us in rivalry at Christiania he soon 
showed us that when one has really learned to con- 
trol one's ' ski ' without having continual recourse to 
one's staff one obtains a mastery over them which is 
quite impossible in the other case, and can with ease 
and speed clear obstacles and difficulties before con- 
sidered insurmountable. The advantages of the new 
method were at once apparent, and the grace, free- 
dom, and boldness of the ' Telemarking's ' carriage 
and movements generally, as compared with the stifl 
and clumsy manoeuvres of the ■' skilober ' of the old 
school were very striking. 

This new departure led at once to a rapid de- 
velopment of the great art of jumping upon ' ski.' 
This, the great feature of ' skilobning ' from a purely 
sporting point of view, is really of no direct practical 
importance, as even the most reckless ' skilober ' is 
not in the habit of flying over precipices of unknown 


depth, but is rather careful to avoid such obstacles 
when he is using his ' ski ' in earnest and on un- 
familiar ground. Jumping is a sport pure and 
simple, but at the same time a sport of great use and 
benefit, as there is no other branch of ' skilobning ' 
which tends in the same degree to develop power of 
balance, control of the 'ski,' or courage and con- 
fident bearing. 

The jumping is done on a steep hillside, which 
has a gradient of perhaps from 30° to 40°. In the 
middle of the hill a bank of snow is built, or there 
may be some natural break in the ground or pro- 
jecting rock which serves the same purpose. The 
jumper slides down from the top of the hill on to this 
bank, which, owing to the great pace which he has 
already attained, throws him far out into the air, 
whereupon after a longer or shorter journey through 
space he alights on the slope below and continues 
his headlong course at an even greater speed than 
before. The jumper- may, and as a rule does, very 
much increase the length of his leap by gathering 
himself together and taking a spring just as he leaves 
the projecting bank. In this way sixty, seventy, or 
even ninety feet may be cleared when the snow is in 
good order and the hill and bank of suitable dimen- 
sions. A weU-known ' skilober ' from Telemarken, 
Sondre Auersen Nordheim by name, is reported to 



have jumped ninety-six Norwegian or ninety-nine 
English feet from a projecting rock, and to have kept 
his balance when he alighted below. The perpen- 



dicular fall necessitated by such, jumps is very con- 
siderable, from thirty to forty feet being no un- 

(_S>/ E. Nielseritfrom an instantaneous photograph) 

common thing, a height which takes one to the roof 
of an ordinary three-storied house. This comparison 
will enable the reader to appreciate the magnitude 


of. the performance, which can otherwise hardly be 
reaUsed by those who have never witnessed it. 

While passing through the air the jumper must 
maintain all his presence of mind, must keep his 
' ski ' straight and under control, and as he touches 
the ground he will generally shoot out one foot 
rather in front of the other and sink on one knee to 
break in some measure the shock of contact. It is 
only the enormous speed attained and the elasticity 
of the snow which make such leaps possible, and 
therefore it is necessary that the slope of the hill 
should be quite as steep below the jump as above it, 
and that the snow should also be in a condition 
favourable for the purpose, since if the 'ski' are 
checked in the slightest degree at the moment of 
contact the difficulty of maintaining the balance is 
immensely increased. Of course violent falls are 
frequent, and the spectator who for the first time 
sees the unfortunate jumper rolling down the hiU — 
arms, legs, and ' ski ' all whirling round together in a 
cloud of snow — will naturally conclude that broken 
limbs must often be the result. As a matter of fact, 
however, serious accidents are extremely rare. 

But the finished ' skilober ' must be able to do 
more than jump. At some of the open competitions 
he is also required to show his skiU in turning his 
' ski ' to one side or the other within given marks. 



and by bringing them quite round to stop short 
before any given obstacle, both of these manceuvres 


(From a drawing by A: Stocfi) 

having to be executed at full speed, that is to say, in 
the descent of a steep hill. In these arts the ' Tele- 


markinger' are complete masters, and the younger 
school of Christiania ' skilobers ' have proved their 
worthy pupils. 

But, apart from these special arts, ' ski ' must be 
considered as being first and foremost instruments of 
locomotion, and therefore the 'speed which can be 
attained in an ordinary way across country must be 
regarded from a practical point of view as the most 
important branch of the sport. Though the jumping 
is always the most popular part of the programme, 
yet at our yearly meetings equal or- greater weight is 
attached to the long race, for, it must be explained, 
the chief prizes are given for combined proficiency 
in the separate branches. It is sometimes thought, 
but very erroneously, that nothing is necessary but 
strength ■ and endurance for success in a long race. 
But, of course, it is equally necessary to be tho- 
roughly accustomed to the use of ' ski,' a state which 
is perhaps only arrived at in perfection by those 
whose training has begun in early boyhood. It is 
as a matter of fact very rarely that those who take 
to the sport at a more or less mature age ever 
become strong and skilful ' skilobers.' 

But, as I have already hinted, it must not be 
thought that ' skilobning ' is a sport which develops 
the body at all unequally^ On the other hand, there 
can be few forms of exercise which perform this task 


SO uniformly and healthfully. The upper part of the 
body and arms come into constant use as well as the 
legs ; the arms particularly by the help of the pole. 
This is especially the case if two poles be carried, a 
practice which is common among the Lapps, which 
has been adopted of late years in the Christiania 
races, and which was followed by us during our 
crossing of Greenland. 

I have already given some idea of the speed to 
which a strong and clever ' skilober ' may attain. 
But so much depends upon those two most uncertain 
quantities, the nature of the ground and the state of 
the snow, that nothing like an absolute standard can 
be fixed. If the conditions be moderately favour- 
able a good man should be able to cover from sixty 
to seventy miles in the course of a day's run. 

The longest race hitherto brought off in Norway 
was held at Christiania in February 1888. The dis- 
tance was 50 km., or 31 miles 122 yards, twice over 
a 25 km. course, which was laid out over hiUy ground 
of a very variable character and included all kinds 
of difficulties calculated to test the competitors' skill. 
The race was won by a Telemarken peasant in 4 hrs. 
26 min., without much pressure on the part of his 
rivals. A much longer race, no doubt the longest on 
record, was that organised by Barons Dickson and 
JSTordenskiold at Jokkmokk, in Swedish Lapland, on 


April 3 and 4, 1884, and described at length in 
Nordenskiold's ' Den andra Dicksonska Expeditionen 
till Gronland.' The winner was a Lapp, Lars 
Tuorda, thirty-seven years of age, one of the two 
who had accompanied Nordenskiold on his Green- 
land expedition and had then done a great feat on 
his ' ski ' on the ' Inland ice.' The distance on this 
occasion was 220 km., or nearly 136f EngUsh miles, 
and it was covered by the winner in 21 hrs. 22 min., 
rests included. The second man, a Lapp of forty, 
was only 5 sec. behind the winner, and of the first 
six, five of whom were Lapps, the last came in 
46 min. after the first. The course was for the most 
part level, being laid mainly over the frozen lakes, 
and the snow must have been in a very favourable 

Earlier Arctic expeditions seem curiously enough 
to have made very little or no use of ' ski.' Some 
of those who have made attempts upon the ' Inland 
ice ' have taken ' ski ' with them, but on the whole 
more to their hindrance than their help. As long 
ago as in 1728 the idea was started in Denmark 
that if the interior of Greenland was to be explored 
it must be 'by sending some strong young Nor- 
wegians, who were accustomed to traverse the moun- 
tains in the winter on " ski " in pursuit of game, as 
they would be able to explore a large part of the 


continent in all directions.' The plan was, however, 
never realised. 

In a book entitled ' Nachrichten von Island, Gron- 
land und Strasse Davis,' published at Hamburg in 
1746, it is stated that a ship's captain attempted 
to penetrate into the interior of Greenland by all 
manner of expedients, employing ' even the long 
footboards, which are used, as is well known, by the 
Lapps and others for their winter traffic. But he 
failed to penetrate far, and after losing one of his 
men, who ventured too far on in front and sank into 
the depths before the eyes of the party, while they 
heard his shrieks and lamentations, but could not 
go to his help, he was obliged to turn back without 
his follower, and without any hope of ever advancing 

In 1878, too, the Danish expedition under Captain 
Jensen took ' ski ' with them, but seem to have 
scarcely used them. Peary and Maigaard also had 
them in 1886, but the only time they have done good 
service was in the case of Nordenskiold's two Lapps 
in 1883, to whose exploit I have already referred. 

Finally I wiU say a few words about the ' ski ' 
we made use of ourselves in the course of the 
expedition, which in the circumstances seem to find 
their place here more appropriately than in the pre- 
ceding chapter on ' Equipment.' 



Our 'ski' were not of any fixed Norwegian type, 
but were specially designeci to suit the nature of the 
ground and state of snow which I expected . to find 
in the interior of Greenland. We took nine pair, 
two of oak and the rest of birch. The oak ' ski ' 
were 7 ft. 6^ in. long, while in front at the curve 
they were 3-| in. broad and 3^ in. under the foot. On 
the upper surface was a ridge running the whole 
length of the ' ski,' which gave the necessary stifiness 


without adding too much to the weight. On the 
under surface were three narrow grooves. The 
seven pair of birch ' ski ' were of about the same 
form and dimensions, except that by the carelessness 
and negligence of the maker they were made rather 
narrower in front at the curve, the sides being 
parallel all through. This want of breadth in front 
prevents the ' ski ' from riding so well upon the 
snow, as they act more hke a snow-plough aiid move 
somewhat heavily. These ' ski ' were delivered so 


short a time before we left that we unfortunately 
were unable to get others and had to take them as 
they were. These birch ' ski,' too, were shod through- 
out with very thin steel plates, and in the middle of 
the plates, just under the foot, were, openings 34^ in. 
by 2y^^in., in which were inserted strips of elk-skin 
with the hair on. The object of the steel plates 
was to make the 'ski' glide better on coarse, wet 
snow, of which I expected a good deal, and that of 



the strips of skin to prevent the ' ski ' from slipping 
back during ascents and the heavy work of hauling 
as much as the steel-plates would have otherwise 
caused them to do. We found, however, none of this 
expected snow, and might well have done without 
these extra contrivances. The two pair of oak ' ski,' 
which Sverdrup and I used, proved in every way 
satisfactory, and I can thoroughly recommend the 
pattern for future work of the kind. 

The fastenings we used were very simple, and 

VOL. I. I 


consisted in nothing but a toe-strap of thick, stiff 
leather and a broadish band of softer leather run- 
ning round behind the heel. The stiff fastenings of 
withies or cane which are commonly used in Norway 
for jumping and ordinary work generally are in my 
opinion quite unsuited to the conditions of a long 
exploring journey. They are by no means necessary 
for a complete control of the ' ski,' and they tire and 
chafe the feet much more than a soft and flexible 
fastening like leather. My experience tells me that 
the less one is conscious of the pressure of the 
fastenings in these long journeys, the less one draws 
upon one's stock of endurance. 




As I have already said, I proposed to reach the east 
coast of Greenland by getting a Norwegian sealer to 
pick us up in Iceland and take us on further. After 
negotiations in several quarters I finally came to 
terms with the owners of the sealer ' Jason ' of Sande- 
fjord. It was agreed that the ship should call for us 
in Iceland, and do its best to put us ashore on the east 
coast of Greenland, while I, on our part, undertook 
that she should sufier no pecuniary loss by having to 
neglect her own business on our account. My agree- 
ment with the captain of the ' Jason,' Mauritz Jacob- 
sen, a cool-headed and experienced Arctic skipper, 
was that on his way to Denmark Strait, after the 
season was over in the Jan Mayen waters, he should 
call for us in Iceland about the beginning of June, 
at Isafjord for preference, or DyraQord in case ice 
should prevent him getting into the former place. 

On May 2 I left Christiania to go by way of 
Copenhagen and London to Leith, where I was to 
meet the other members of the party. They left 

1 2 


Christiania the day after me, taking steamer from 
Christianssand to Scotland, and carrying the whole 
outfit of the expedition with them. 

Many sensible people shook their heads doubt- 
fully, and took us sadly by the hand the day we left. 
They evidently thought, if they did not say : — ' This 
is the last time we shall see you, but God grant that 
you never manage to reach land ! ' There was a deal 
of excitement, too, caused by this absurd little ex- 
pedition, which could not even rise to the dignity of 
its own steamer, but had to leave home in an ordi- 
nary passenger-boat, the owners of which, by the 
way, had liberally given it a free passage. Of cheer- 
ing, too, there was plenty in our honour. People 
thought it was just as well to give these poor fel- 
lows some gratification during the short time now 
left to them for the enjoyment of life. In Eavna's 
case this enjoyment was for the moment brief indeed-, 
for he had to sacrifice to the gods of the deep or 
ever he reached the open sea. 

Balto thus describes the departure from Chris- 
tiania : — ' As we passed, out of the town on our way 
to the quays great numbers of men and women 
accompanied us, to wish us good luck and cheer us 
on our way. We were received with similar demon- 
strations by the people of all the little towns from 
Christiania to Christianssand, for they thought we 


should never come back alive. They expected, 
perhaps, that we should meet with the same fate as 
Herr Sinklar, when he set out for Norway to plunder 
and to ravish.' 

In Copenhagen I paid a visit to Captain Holm, 
the leader of the Danish. ' Konebaad ' Expedition, of 
which I have already spoken, and obtained from him 
much valuable information as to the state of the ice 
on that part of the coast along which he had passed. 
Here also I met Herr Maigaard, who in 1886 had 
penetrated, together with the American explorer 
Peary, some distance into the interior over the ice. 
He was one of the very few who were sanguine as 
to the result of the expedition, and had no doubt of ' 
the possibility of crossing the Greenland continent. 

I met the rest of my party in Leith again, and 
found them enjoying themselves much, thanks to the 
kindness of their fellow-countrymen there resident. 
Balto in his narrative speaks of the Norwegian 
Consul as a ' new father ' to him, and a hospitable 
entertainer of the whole party. If the truth be told, 
Balto managed to find ' new fathers ' in many differ- 
ent places. 

After receiving many proofs of Scottish kindness 
and hospitality, on the evening of May 9 we went 
on board the Danish steamer ' Thyra,' which lay at 
Granton, and which was to take us the first stage of 



our journey to Iceland. It was midnight when we 
said good-bye to the last of our friends, who saw 
us off on the deserted quay, and 
then westeamed out into the dark- 
ness on our way northwards. 

After two days or more of 
fair weather we reached the 
Faroe Islands, that strange little 

W group of basaltic rocks on which 

much of the old Forse speech and 
civilisation still remains. We 
called first at Trangisva-ag, a 
tiny inhabited spot on the most 
southerly island, Suderb, lying 
by a little inlet, and surrounded by low mountains of 
basalt, but, as far as I can learn, a place of no special 
interest. After some hours' stay we went on towards 

{From a photograph) 


{After a photograph) 

Thorshavn in a stiff wind and a moderate fog, though 
we could see Great and Little Dimon as we passed. 
These are two little basalt islands rising almost per- 



pendicularly out of the sea, which serve chiefly as 
the resort of countless sea-birds. Great Dimon has 
one settler only, whose farm lies at the summit of 
the island on its southern side. Goods and packages 
are lowered down the precipitous chffs to the water's 
edge, while the inhabitants 
use a breakneck path, which 
in some places is hewn out 
of the rock itself. The sides 
of the island are so abrupt 
that no boat can be kept 
there through the winter, all 
having to be taken away in 
the autumn. If the inhabi- 
tants want anything they 
must make the recognised 
signals and their neighbours 
will come to them if they 
can, but from the beginning, 
of November to the end- of 
March it is, as a rule, impos- 
sible to land, as the sea is 
far too violent. Through these months, therefore, 
the islanders are often entirely cut off from the 
world. I was told that some years ago these poor 
people let their fire out in the middle of November, 
and, as they had no matches, they had to pass nearly 

a bikd eock in the faroe 


(^After aphotograph) 


lialf a year without light, warmth, or anything but 
uncooked food. 

On the afternoon of the third day from Leith we 
arrived at Thorshavn, which, as everybody knows, is 
the capital of the Faroe Islands, and the residence of 
the ' Amtmand,' or Governor, and other officials. It 
has its own newspaper, ' Dimmalsetting ' or ' Dawn,' 
which is printed in Faroese, and is published every 
Saturday. There is also a little fort of three guns, 
and a garrison reported to consist of something like 
twelve men. The walls were just of sufficient height 
to allow of our jumping over them when we went 
up to inspect the position and found the gates locked. 

The town lies by two inlets and on somewhat 
broken ground. It is surrounded by small hills and 
eminences, which again are backed by heights which 
at the time of our visit were clad in snow. As seen 
from the sea the place is not at all unlike an ordinary 
Norwegian sea-coast town. 

The inhabitants, like those of the Faroe Islands 
generally, live to a large extent on the produce of 
their fisheries. Sheep-farming is also an important 
industry, and the number of these animals quite un- 
usual, as they reach the high average of eighteen per 
head of the population. 

As bad weather kept us in Thorshavn from 
Saturday till Monday, we had an opportunity of 


witnessing the national Earoese dance, which is held 
every Sunday evening at ten o'clock. 

This is the strangest performance in the way of 
dancing which I have ever-had the luck to see. All 
the participators — in this case there were something 

(From a photograph} 

Uke a hundred of the two sexes — together, promis- 
cuously, and without any order or sign of partner- 
ship, seize each other's hands and form in a large 
ring or long chain. They then set off to a slow 
polka-like step in rhythm with some ancient ballad, 
which is chanted, generally in Paroese, but some- 


times Danish, to a monotonous and dragging air by 
the whole company of dancers. The singing is vigor- 
ous beyond all description, the main object of each 
performer being apparently to out-sing the rest. This 
tranip is kept up continuously without change in the 
step, and with no variation at all except for the 
windings and undulations of the chain, till one or 
two o'clock in the morning, and on specially solemn 
occasions, as a matter of course, much later. 

Anyone who wishes to join the dance breaks the 
chain where he pleases and takes his place. Several 
of our party did this at once, naturally taking care 
to choose the most desirable points in the long dine, 
and displaying in the course of the performance an 
amount of energy and endurance worthy of a better 

This seems to be the only form of dance practised 
on these islands, No doubt it is a legacy of the 
ancient Norsemen, and it even seems that a similar 
diversion still existed in Iceland during the last 
century, and was there called ' Vikivaka.' In 
Norway it has probably disappeared long since, 
which is not to be wondered at, seeing that the 
attractions of the performance are of so exceedingly 
obscure a nature. I for my part could not at all 
discover wherein the enjoyment consisted. 

There is something very quaint in such survivals 


of the past, something almost touching in the fact that 
these people come together every Sunday evening 
to dance a dance which has long since disappeared 
elsewhere, and to sing venerable ballads the meaning 
of which can scarcely be intelligible to them now. 

On Monday morning we reached the little village 
of Klaksvig, the most northerly place of call on the 
Faroe Islands. It is buried among basalt mountains, 

{From a sketch by the Author) 

which even for these islands are remarkable for their 
terraced structure and severely geometrical forms. 
After two or three hours' stay we were off again, 
and on our way seawards had fine opportunities of 
admiring the wealth of wild fantastic outlines so 
characteristic of the northern coast of the group. 

The temperature liow began to remind us that 
we were approaching more northerly latitudes. The 
Lapps in their tunics of reindeer-skin were comfort- 


able enougli, but some of the rest of us, who had no 
furs, had to admit that we found the air somewhat 
chilly. This gave Eavna occasion to deliver himself 
of some very grave speculations, which he confided 
to Balto. Balto at once came and reported to us : — ■■ 
' Eavna wants to know why we have been foolish 
enough to come with people like you, who have so 
few clothes. He sees you shivering here, and he says 
you will die in Greenland, where it is so cold^ and 
then we Lapps must die too, because we shall never 
find our way out again.' 

Eavna did not on the whole seem to enjoy him- 
self much on board. At first he was sea-sick, though 
he got over this after some days, but he never really 
found his sea-legs, and he could never sleep comfoj^t- 
ably below. The air was too close for him down 
there, so he used to draw his tunic over his head, 
slip his arms inside, and lie curled up like a dog in 
some corner of the deck, and thus managed to sleep 
quite as well as we. Balto, who was already used to 
the sea, made himself at home at once, became great 
friends with the crew, and was a leading spirit in 
the forecastle, where the abundant flow of liquor 
was quite to his taste. After making an absurd 
exhibition of himself one day, he was moved to a 
temporary repentance and promised not to offend 
in this way again. 



From the time we left Scotland I began taking 
daily samples of the air by means of the apparatus I 
have already mentioned. The object was mainly to 
measure the amount of carbonic acid prevalent in the 
different regions. I continued this sample-taking 

(^By Th. Kolmboe, cifter a photograph') 

regularly across the sea to Iceland and thence to the 
east coast of Greenland, and brought also home with 
me a certain number of specimens from the ' Inland , 
ice ' itself. 

While we were in the Faroe Islands we had heard 
bad news of the state of the ice round Iceland. It 


was said that it had come farther south this year 
than had been known within the memory of man, 
and the east coast of the island was reported inacces- 
sible. This was confirmed only too soon, for we met 
the ice when we were hardly within 140 miles of 
shore. "We pushed on northwards to see if we could 
reach land further up, but it was to no purpose, 
as the ice was everywhere. Several sailing vessels 
too, which we met, informed us that it extended a 
long way to the north. 

On the next day, Wednesday, May 16, we made 
another attempt to reach land on the eastern side, 
though this was off Berufjorden, a long way south j 
here, too, we were stopped some ninety miles from" 
land. This left us nothing to do but make for the 
south-west, and we steamed along the rocky and 
picturesque southern coast with a fair wind behind 
us. In the evening we passed OraefajokuU, the 
highest mountain in Iceland, which rises out of the 
sea 'to a height of some 6,400 feet. As the setting 
sun cast its last rays upon the mountain's snowy 
sides, and on the veil of mist which enwrapped its. 
summit, while now and again the breaking of the 
veil allowed us to see for a moment the soft outlines 
of the conical peak, the scene was one of unusually 
impressive grandeur. 

On the morning of the next day, May 17, we 



approached the 
Vestmanna Is- 
lands, which lie 
some miles to 
sea, off the mid- 
dle of the south- 
ern coast of Ice- 
land. It was a 
glorious sunny 
day, and the sea 
was smooth and 
bright as glass 
as we glided 
in between the 
lofty precipit- 
ous basalt rocks 
which form this 
group of is- 
lands and lay to 
off Heimaey, the 
largest of them 
all, and the only 
one inhabited. 

Here also, 
as in the Faroe 
Islands, the sea 
eats away the • 


layers of basalt rock, leaving perpendicular walls 
■which, fall sheer into the sea and are honeycombed 
with great cavities and grottoes. The whole scene 
had a distinctly Mediterranean aspect and at once 
suggested a comparison with Capri, not by any 
means to the latter's undisputed pre-eminence. We 
were steaming straight for these wonderful cliiFs,, 

{From aphotograpli) 

about which the breakers threw their spray and the 
screaming sea-birds wheeled in thousands. There 
was something strangely fascinating in the whole : a 
brilliant summer-like daj^, a bright green sea as clear 
as crystal, and right opposite us, on the mainland, the 
highest peak but one in Iceland, the volcano Eya- 
fjallajokul, whose great white snow-mantle lay before 


•US, Still glittering in the evening sun. In the back- 
ground, again, were other peaks' and glaciers, among 
which the huge white dome of Hekla was most pro- 

Later we passed Eeykjanass, which carries the 
only lighthouse which Iceland possesses. The spot 
is one of absolute desolation, and is especially ex- 
posed to shocks of earthquake, which have already 

{By Th. Holmboejfrom a sketch ly the Author) 

damaged the lighthouse and threaten before long 
to demolish it altogether. 

Beyond are a few rocks and islands which are 
chiefly remarkable for the number of Great Auk 
{Aha impennis) to which they formerly gave shelter. 

After a hard struggle against a head wind and 
heavy sea, which again and again completely neutra- 
lised the ' Thyra's ' efforts to push on, we reached 
Eeykjavik, the capital of Iceland, in the course of 

VOL. I. K 



the night. Our stay was short, but next morning we 
were allowed some hours on shore. 

"We could not find much to interest us in the 
little town. Among its few stone buildings are the 
Cathedral and the place of assembly of the ' Althing ' 
or Parliament of Iceland. These are built of lava, 
which is of course abundant on the island, and it is 

{From a photograpK) 

a matter for wonder that more use is not made of it, 
seeing that every log and plank of wood has to be 

In Eeykjavik bureaucracy seems to have reached 
a high pitch of development. I was told that the 
town possessed no fewer than forty officials, which 
gives at least one for every hundred of the popu- 


lation. One would have almost thought that this 
superfluity of magnates betokened the possession of 
wealth, but the poor little community could doubt- 
less tell another tale. 

About mid-day we left again after having paid a 
visit on board the Danish man-of-war, the 'Fylla,' 

(By Th. Ilolmboe,from a sketch by the Author) 

which steamed into the harbour just as we were 
about to start. 

We now set our course for the promontory of 
Snefellsnses on our way north to Isafjord, our even- 
tual destination. In the evening, just as the sun was 
setting, we passed SnefellsjokuU, an old volcano which 
lies on the extreme point of the promontory. The 


peak is most impressive as one passes close beneath 
it, for it rises out of the sea to a height of more than 
4,500 feet. It is well known as a most useful sea- 
mark, and its white cap has guided many a vessel 
into safety. As we passed it was perhaps at its best, 
as the last rays of the sinking sun were just redden- 
ing its mantle of snow. 

Whereas May 18 had been comparatively spring- 
like, the day following plunged us into the depth of 
winter again. When we came on deck in the morn- 
ing we were met by a stiff breeze from the north, 
with sleet and snow. The high basalt mountains on 
the mainland were decked from head to foot in white, 
and the floes which we saw floating by from time to 
time were precursors which assured us that the main 
body of ice was not far off. We were now close to 
Onundafjord, and, as the breeze promised to increase 
to a gale and the snow was falling thickly, we took 
refuge in the excellent harbour which the inlet 
affords, there to await better weather. The storm 
now increased rapidly, and we had full opportunity 
of learning what the wind of these northern parts 
can do. No one ventured on deck who was not 
obliged. One could keep one's feet there indeed if it 
were necessary, but to bring one's nose for more 
than an instant, out of shelter was an experiment to 
which there was little temptation. The ship, however, 


lay very comfortably where she was, and, as it hap- 
pened to be Whitsun Eve, we did our best to make 
things as pleasant as possible down below. 

When we woke next morning we were already in 
Isafjord, where we intended to go ashore. Here, too, 
winter prevailed no less absolutely, and everything 
was under snow. Isafjord is the second of the three 
towns of Iceland, and is a pretty little place, buried, 
together with its excellent harbour, among the sur- 
rounding mountains. 

Here I was told that the drift-ice lay not far to 
the north, as it had, in fact, come south of Cape Nord. 
Strong northerly winds might bring it stiU farther 
south, and block the approach to the fjord. It was 
extremely rarely that this had happened, but there' 
was just a possibility of it, and the ' Jason' might 
have some difficulty in getting into Isafjord to fetch 
us. To avoid this risk I made up my mind to go 
back to Dyrafjord, which lies a little farther south, and 
is never blocked by the ice, and await her there, as 
we had agreed to do if it were necessary. So I sent 
a letter ashore for the ' Jason's ' captain, telling him 
of our movements, and we started southwards again. 

Next morning when we came on deck the weather 
was splendid, and we were running fast up the 
approach to Dyrafjord. The winter had now retired 
to some extent to the mountains, and along the sea- 


shore there were a few signs of spring to gladden, us, 
"We were soon anchored off Thingeyre, the httle 
trading-centre of the fjord, and we now took leave of 
the captain and crew of the ' Thyra,' who had from 
the first done all they could to make our stay on board 
as pleasant as possible, and who now fired a farewell 
salute in our honour. 

At Thingeyre we were hospitably welcomed by 
Herr Gram, the merchant of the place, who had 
kindly offered us shelter while we were to wait for 
the ' Jason.' 

The little hamlet lies on an ' eyre/ the Norwegian 
' or,' so common in place-names in the west of Norway, 
a flat stretch of sandy soil running out into the fjord. 
Here the ' eyre ' is part of an old moraine, which 
dates from the time when Iceland was covered with 
a mantle of ice, and which was driven before it by 
the great glacier which then filled the fjord, and 
to some extent, at least, helped to excavate it and 
deepen it. Farther in, towards the end of the fjord, 
are several of these moraines lying parallel with 
one another. They stretch straight across the inlet, 
partly above and partly below the surface of the 
water, and often make the navigation of the fjord 

Dyrafjord lies between steep basalt mountains of 
the same character as those of the Faroe Islands. At 


the end of the inlet the imposing GldmujbkuU forms 
a barrier. It is of no great height. I made it sub- 
sequently about 2,900 feet, but it is at least the 
highest mountain on the peninsula of Vestfirdir, 
which, in fact, is almost an island in itself, as it is 
only connected with the mainland by an isthmus 
some six miles in width. 

One day our whole party undertook the ascent 
of G14mujokull. "We took both our ' ski ' and 

{^From a sketch by the Author} 

' truger,' for we imagined the snow might be deep 
and soft higher up. This was not the case, for it 
was quite hard enough to walk upon, and in excel- 
lent condition for our ' ski,' too excellent indeed for 
one of the party, as the sequel unfortunately proved. 
The weather was charming, and the view from the 
top most striking. The whole country hereabouts 
is most remarkable, a high plateau, surprisingly flat 
and level, stretching far away in front, and falling 
abruptly into the sea on every side. In the back- 
VOL. 1. *k; 4 


ground to the south is Snefellsjbkull, rising high above 
all else, its lofty cone quite unmistakable. The view 
at once gives one a clear impression of the way the 
land has been formed, how the streams of liquid 
basalt have flowed quietly and evenly to every side 
and formed a large unbroken plateau; how the frost 
and rain, and then the glaciers, have worked upon this 
plain, and at its edges especially have graven out 
fjords and valleys. It is only the extreme edge that 

(^From a sketch by the AtUhor^ 

has been cut and chiselled in this way, while the 
inner plateau seems to be still in much the same 
condition as when it was first formed. 

On the way home we slid down the steep slopes, 
which gave us the best hills for our ' ski ' which we 
could have wished. The snow was hard, and our 
' ski,' which were shod with steel, flew over it as if 
it had been glass. This speed, however, led to an 
unfortunate accident. My younger Lapp, Balto, who 
was by no means as experienced a ' skilober ' as I 


had reason to expect, ran on too recklessly, and 
came to utter grief over a projecting rock. The 
fall strained his right knee so badly that it was all 
we could do to get him home. On the way up he 
had as usual been talking a great deal about his pro- 
ficiency, and declaring that he and his fellow Lapp 
would find no difiiculty, as they could put their poles 
between their legs and then run where they pleased. 
We had just started down the first steep slope, and 
Balto was proceeding to ride his staflf in the way 
proposed, which is a device for slackening speed, 
often adopted by the less sportsmanlike, when the 
catastrophe happened, and his failure was so absolute 
and absurd that, in spite of its serious nature, we 
could not restrain the laughter he so well deserved. 

Balto remained an invalid for some time. I really 
thought I should lose one of my men, and even 
went so far as to contemplate taking an Icelander in- 
stead, though it was not at all likely that I should 
have found anyone ready to go. However, daily 
' massage ' so strengthened his leg that I soon began 
to have hopes of his ultimate recovery, though he 
was in despair himself and very despondent alto- 
gether. Eavna was in very low spirits too, for 
he thought he would either lose his comrade and 
have to go alone, or stay behind and forfeit the 
promised remuneration. 



On the whole our stay at Thingeyre passed quickly 
enough, and we spent our time climbing mountains, 
shooting on the fjord, riding, and paying visits to the 
farmers. Our best sport without comparison was 
rid ing the excellent little Iceland ponies. When you 
get on to the back of one of these 
sturdy little beasts, and find your 
feet almost dragging upon the 
ground, you feel that the position 
is not one of dignity, and have an 
uncomfortable suspicion that the 
pony's back must give way sooner 
or later. But when he starts off 
at the wildest of gallops over 
stretches of loose stones which fly 
under his feet, through bogs where 
he sinks to far above his fetlocks, 
over brooks and through ravines, 
up steep mountain-sides and down 
rocks and slippery declivities — in 
short, over a country in which to 
an ordinary horse the first few steps would mean the 
loss of a couple of legs, and all the while at the same 
reckless breakneck pace, but with never the suspicion 
of a stumble, your respect for this, without doubt, 
the best mountain-pony in the world is at once esta- 
blished. You are most astonished perhaps when you 


(By A. Block, from 
a photograph) 



come to a river and see your little steed plunge 
without more ado into the stream and wade or swim 
across, while the rider must do his best to keep dry 
by bringing his feet up on to the horse's back at the 
imminent risk of being plunged into the water by 
an unexpected movement. As the reader probably 
knows, there are no roads or bridges in Iceland, and 
riding is the universal mode of progression. 

iBy E. Nielsen, from a photograph) 

^,4i* At a farm near Dyrafjord I 

bought a little pony to take with 
us for the purposes of the expedition. I meant to 
use it to help us with our boats and baggage in 
the floes, and, if we could get it so far, on the way 
up on to the 'Inland ice.' I was not sanguine 
that it would be of much use to us, but when we 
were obliged to kill it it would give us many a meal 


of good fresh meat. When I left Norway I had 
thought of buying two ponies, but when I saw what 
they could do I' felt sure one would be quite enough. 

As it happened our little beast was not of much 
use. In the spring it is not easy to get fodder in 
Iceland, and in spite of all my efforts I could only 
scrape together enough for a month. 

The pony we took was a very handsome little 
animal, and, curiously enough, he was used to the 
work we wanted him for, as he had been put to the 
plough for a while, which is quite unusual in Iceland, 
where the ponies are as a rule used only for riding 
or as pack-horses. 

One morning during our stay in Dyrafjord a 
three-masted vessel came steaming into the fjord and 
dropped anchor in the harbour. This was the 
Danish man-of-war, the ' Fylla,' which we had left at 
Eeykjavik. Her arrival was a pure source of joy to 
us, and much added to the pleasure of our stay. 

Our time, however, was now drawing nigh, and, as 
we expected to see the ' Jason ' every day, we grew 
almost impatient for her arrival. 

On June 3, in the morning, we could see far out 
at the mouth of the fjord a little steamer slowly 
working inwards. At first we could make nothing 
of her, but soon came .to the conclusion that she 
must be one of the small steamers used by the 


Norwegian Whaling Company in Isafjord. As she 
came nearer we made her to be the ' Isafold,' which 
is one of these boats, but what she could want here 
on a Sunday morning we could not imagine. After 
saluting the 'Fylla' she anchored and sent a boat 
on shore amid our increasing excitement. I had be- 
gun to suspect the truth, when, to my astonishment 
as well as joy, I recognised in the first who stepped 
ashore Captain Jacobsen of the ' Jason.' Our 
meeting was almost frantic, but the story was soon 
told. He had reached Isafjord and, not finding us 
there, had thought of coming on to Dyrafjord with 
the ' Jason.' But with the strong wind blowing it 
would have taken his heavily-rigged ship a whole 
day to make the voyage, and, as the Norwegian 
Company's manager most kindly offered to send the 
' Isafold ' to fetch us, he had taken the opportunity 
of coming too. 

We lost no time in getting ready, and there was 
no lack of willing hands to bring our goods on 
board. Amid general interest our little pony was 
led on to the landing-stage. He did all he could to 
resist, poor little feUoWj and had almost to be carried ; 
had he but known the sad fate in store for him, 
I scarcely think we should have got him on board 
at all. 

When all was done and we had said farewell to 


Herr Gram, our kind entertainer, and the other 
friends we had made in Dyrafjord, we steamed out of 
the fjord and to sea northwards. The 'Fylla' gave 
us her last greeting, and her band played our national 
song, ' Mens nordhavet bruser,' till we passed out of 
hearing of its tones. The same evening we anchored 
in the harbour of Isafjord amid salutes from the 
little steamer which carried us, as well as from the 
- Jason.' The latter was decked throughout with 
flags, which, as Balto picturesquely writes, reminded 
him ' of the red cloudberries on the bogs at home/ 
As we boarded our new ship we were received with a 
ringing cheer by the whole crew. 

The ' Jason,' as we learned, had been tolerably 
successful hitherto, as she was also the whole season 
as compared with her fellows. Up to this time she 
had taken 4,500 young seal and 1,100 old. 




On the evening of June 4, after a brilliant sunny- 
day, we weighed anchor in Isafjord. As we steamed 
out the sun was just bestowing a last caressing gleam 
upon the basalt cliffs. Their western sides were 
warm and bright with the evening glow, while cold 
shadows filled all the clefts and fissures among the- 
terraces above and the furrows worn by the water- 
in the lower slopes, the characteristic horizontal 
lines of structure being thus thrown into still sharper 
distinctness. A singular landscape, indeed ! 

Then we bade our last farewell to this fragment of 
Europe and stood out to sea. 

As we leave the land behind us we are followed 
by hundreds of kittiwakes, in billowy masses of 
white and blue, chattering in endless chorus, now 
sinking as they swoop low on extended wing over 
the vessel's wake, now rising as they soar lightly in 
their graceful evolutions up towards the blue sky. 

Here was an opportunity for the display of one's, 
shooting powers. To hit these birds on the wing 


with a bullet is not the easiest of feats, and with 
saloon-rifles and revolvers we set to work to test 
our skill. Most of our shots fly wide : the bird only 
shakes its wings and sails on further. Presently one 
is struck, but not killed. With flapping wings it 
sinks struggling to the sea. Poor, helpless victim ! 
The ship holds on her course. She cannot stop at 
the shriek of a wounded bird, but for long we can 
see it far away behind us beating the water with its 
useless wings and surrounded by its comrades, they 
uttering their plaintiye and reproachful cries. An 
uneasy shudder stirs the shooters. What a -monster 
man must be, causelessly and thoughtlessly to sacri- 
fice a happy bird for the sake of a doubtful pleasure ! 
And my -conscience pricks me too ! 

There was no more shooting that day. Such a 
thing is remembered for a time and then forgotten, 
Ithough sometimes the recollection steals upon one 
yet again — a poor struggling bird on the calm surface 
of the sea at sunset arising from the mist of memory 
— and a wave of irresistible melancholy sweeps over 
the mind. 

Indeed, many such winged and struggling birds 
are the victims of a hunter's life, though seldom so 
utterly without reason as in this case. Here we 
have not even the imperious struggle for existence 
in excuse. 


Before we leave the Iceland fishing-grounds we 
must try and procure ourselves a dish of fresh fish. 
The Norwegian sealers make it a rule to get a catch 
as they pass the well-stocked coast of Iceland at the 
end of May or beginning of June on their way to 
Denmark Strait. We are, of course, no exception, 
and it is no wonder that our crew are on the look- 
out for something fresh, as they have now spent 
some three months on little but salt food and pre- 
served meat. Seal-flesh they are foolish enough to 
refuse to eat. 

So -some few miles from land we heave to, and 
our lines are let out in a suitable depth of water. 
Then follows a couple of minutes' silent expectation. 
Are there fish here ? we wonder. Yes, there are a 
few good tugs at one of the lines, and it is pulled up. 
We bend over the . ship's side, see something white 
far down in the water, and a big struggling cod is 
hauled up on to the deck. Presently there follow 
fish after fish, and then comes a lively competition 
for the biggest take. It is not long before we have 
a good supply, enough and more for every man on 
board. This will do as far as the cod go, but we 
may as well get hold of a few halibut too. So we 
move a bit farther out to where the halibut banks 
are supposed to be. We try our luck, but here with 
no success. We change our ground and try again, 

VOL. I. L 


These mighty fantastic forms are wanting ; all is 
monotony and uniformity, features which nevertheless 
leave an indelible impression on the mind. In small, 
indeed, it has forms enough and in infinite diversity, 
and of colours all tints and strange effects of green 
and blue, flashing and playing in endless variation ; 
but, as to its large features, it is just their overpower- 
ing simplicity of contrast which works so strongly 
on the observer's mind : the drifting ice, a huge 
white glittering expanse stretching as far as the eye 
can reach, and throwing a white reflection far around 
upon the air and mist ; the dark sea, often showing 
black as ink against the white ; and above all this a 
sky, now gleaming cloudless and pale-blue, now dark 
and threatening with driving scud, or again wrapped 
in densest fog — now glowing in all the rich poetry of 
sunrise or sunset colour, or slumbering through the 
lingering twilight of the summer night. And then 
in the dark season of the year come those wonderful 
nights of glittering stars and northern lights playing 
far and wide above the icy deserts, or when the moon, 
here most melancholy, wanders on her silent way 
through scenes of desolation and death. In these 
regions the heavens count for more than elsewhere ; 
they give colour and character, while the landscape, 
simple and unvarying, has no power to draw the 


Never shall I forget the first time I entered these 
regions. It was on a dark night in March 1882 
when we, on board a Norwegian sealer, met the first 
floes in the neighbourhood of Jan Mayen, and ice 
was announced ahead. I ran on deck and gazed 
ahead, but all was black as pitch and indistinguish- 
able to me. Then suddenly something huge and 
white loomed out of the darkness, and grew in size 
and whiteness, a marvellous whiteness in contrast to 
the inky sea, on the dark waves of which it rocked 
and swayed. This was the first floe gliding by us.. 
Soon more came, gleaming far ahead, rustling by 
us with a strange rippling sound and disappearing 
again far behind. Then I saw a singular light in 
the northern sky, brightest down at the horizon, but 
stretching far up towards the zenith. I had not 
noticed this before, and as I looked I heard a curious 
murmur to the north like that of breakers on a rocky 
coast, but more rustling and crisper in sound. The 
whole made a peculiar impression upon me, and I felt 
instinctively that I stood on the threshold of a new 
world. What did aU this mean ? Were these the fields 
of ice in front of us and to the north ? But what were 
the sound and light ? The light was the reflection 
which the white masses of ice always throw up when 
the air is thick, as it was that night, and the sound 
came from the sea breaking over the floes while they 


collided and grated one against the other. On still 
nights this noise may be heard far out to sea. 

But we drew nearer and nearer, the noise grew 
louder, the drifting floes more and more frequent, and 
now and again the vessel struck one or another of 
them. With a loud report the floe reared on end, 
and was thrust aside by our strong bows. Sometimes 
the shock was so violent that the whole ship trembled 
and we were thrown ofi" our feet upon the deck. Not 
long, indeed, were we allowed to doubt that we were 
now voyaging in waters new and strange to us. We 
shortened sail, and for a day or two cruised along the 
edge of the ice. Then one evening it blew up for a 
storm, and, as we were tired of the sea, we resolved to 
push into the ice and ride out its fury there. So we 
stood straight ahead, but before we reached the mar- 
gin of the ice the storm fell upon us. Sail was still 
further shortened, till we had but the topsails left, but 
we still rushed inwards before the wind. The ship 
charged the ice, was thrown from floe to floe, but on 
she pushed, taking her own course in the darkness. 
The swell grew heavier and heavier, and made things 
worse than ever. The floes reared on end and fell upon 
each other ; all around us was seething and noise ; 
the wind whistled in the rigging, and not a word 
was to be heard save the captain's calm but vigorous 
orders, which prevailed o>eJ^*the roaring of the sea. 


Precisely and silently were they obeyed by the 
pale men, who were all on deck, as none dared risk 
his hfe by staying below, now that the ship was 
straining in every joint. We bored steadily inwards 
into the darkness. It was no use trying to guide 
the vessel here ; she had to be left to herself, like 
the horses on the mountains, at home. The water 
seethed and roared round our bows ; the floes were 
rolled over, split in pieces, were forced under or 
thrust aside, nothing holding its own against us. 
Then one looms ahead, huge and white, and threatens 
to carry away the davits and rigging on one side. 
Hastily the boat which hangs in the davits is swung 
in on to the deck, the helm is put down, and we 
glide by uninjured. Then comes a big sea on our 
quarter, breaking as it nears us, and as it strikes us 
heavily we hear a crash and the whistling of splinters 
about our ears, while the port is thrown across the 
deck, a floe having broken the bulwarks on the 
weather-side. The ship heels over, we hear another 
crash, and the bulwarks are broken in several places 
on the lee-side too. 

But as we get further into the ice it grows calmer. 
The sea loses its force, the noise is deadened, though 
the storm tears over us with more fury than ever. 
The wind whistles and shrieks in the rigging, and we 
can scarcely keep our footing on the deck. The 


storm seems to rage because it cannot roll at its will 
in the open sea ; but' here at last we caii ride at our 
ease. We had played a dangerous game by talking 
to the' ice in a storm, but we had come out of it un--, 
scathed and were now in smooth water. "When I 
cam,e on deck next morning, the sun was shining, 
the ice lay white arid still around us, and o^ly the 
broken bulwarks grinning in the morning sun called 
to mind the stormy night, 

: This was my first meeting with the ice. Very' 
difierent was it indeed this second: time. "We saw it 
now on a fine bright day, a dazzling .white expanse 
quivering and> glittering in the.; sunshine far away : 
towards the horizqn, while the sea rocked gently and; 
peacefully against its edge. 

It must not be supposed that this drifting ice of 
the Arctic seas forms a single continuous field. It 
consists of aggregations of larger and smaller floes, 
which may reach a thickness of thirty or forty feet or 
even mo're. How these floes are formed and where 
they come from is not yet known with certainty, but- 
it must be somewhere in the open sea far away in the 
north, or over against the Siberian coast where no 
one has hitherto forced his way. Borne on the. 
Polar current, the ice is carried southwards along- 
the east coast of Greenland. Here it meets the 
swell of the sea, and the larger solid masses are 


broken into smaller and smaller floes as they come 
farther south. By the pressure of the waves, and 
consequent packing, the floes are sometimes also 
piled one upon another, and then form hummocks 
or crags of ice which may often rise twenty or thirty 
feet above the water. 

It is this broken and scattered polar ice which 
the sealer meets in Denmark Strait, and it is among 
these floes, which can indeed be dangerous obstacles 
enough, that he forces his way with his powerful 
vessel in pursuit of' the bladder-nose. 

For several days we. worked southwards, skirt- 
ing the ice. On Wednesday we see the point of 
Staalbjerghuk in Iceland, and estimate that we are 
about thirty miles distant from it. 

On Thursday, June 7, we get into a tongue of 
open ice and see here and there seals, bladder-nose, 
upon the floes. There is life on board the ' Jason ' 
at once. ' It is a good sign to see seal so soon, on 
the first ice we get into. We shall have a good 
season this year very likely, and we want it too, after 
all these bad years,' and so on. And visions of a 
real handsome catch, as in the good old Greenland 
days, arise in the lively imagination of many a 
sealer. The men are all deeply interested in the 
success of the vessel, as their earnings are "dependent 
thereon. Hope too, luckily, has a tendency with 


many folk to follow the direction of their wishes. 
Easily is it raised, but just as easily disappointed. 

We saw more seal on the ice, and our captain 
determined to try for a little haul. So the boats of 
one watch were sent out. Sverdrup and Dietrichson, 
who had never been out before, were of course con- 
sumed with eagerness to see and try their rifles on 
these masses of game. They were no little delighted 
when they had received the due permission and the 
boats were under way, but as beginners they were 
put in charge of skilled shooters. We soon heard 
reports on various sides of us, but only a shot now 
and again — no lively firing, nothing like the con- 
tinuous blaze and rattle all over the ice which is the 
accompaniment of a good haul. They were evi- 
dently youngsters and mainly small seal which lay 
scattered hereabout. 

In the afternoon, when this detachment had come 
back, the boats of the other watch were sent out. I 
stayed on board the whole day, and shot a number 
of seal from the stern of the vessel. Curiously 
enough, one can, as a rule, get nearer to the seal with 
the larger vessel than with the boats. They have 
learned to fear the latter, and often take to the water 
quite out of range, while one can sometimes bring 
the big ship right up to the floe on which they lie 
before they decamp. 


We got 187 seal altogether that day, which is 
nothing much. They were chiefly youngsters, though 
there were some old ones among them. Dietrich- 
son's boat got twenty seal, and Sverdrup's thirty- 

That day, too, we saw several sealers in the ice to 
the west of us, and next day we had a talk with some 
of them. Of course they all wanted to talk with the 
' Jason,' which had this extraordinary Greenland ex- 
pedition on board. The captain of the ' Magdalena,' 
of Tonsberg, came to see us and carried off the post 
we had brought from Iceland for the other vessels, 
promising to have it delivered, as the ' Jason ' was 
■bound for the east coast of Greenland, and it was 
uncertain whether we should see the other sealers for 
some time. The postal system of the Arctic sea is 
managed in a somewhat remarkable way. If any 
of the vessels touch at Iceland they carry off the post 
for the rest of the fleet. The reader wiU perhaps 
think that the Arctic sea covers a large area and 
that it would be doubtful whether one vessel would 
find the others in these parts. But. it is not really so. 
The sealing grounds are hot so extensive that- one is 
not -quite as well informed about one's fellow's actions 
and movements as one generally is about the busi- 
ness of one's neighbour in a small town at home. 
The sealers like to keep close together, and no one 


will separate any distance from the rest for fear the 
others may come in for a haul while he is away. He 
dare not run the risk of getting nothing while the 
others are taking seal, on the mere chance of getting 
a larger haul all to himself another time. The 
struggle for existence is here maintained in the same 
way as elsewhere in the world. 

Later in the afternoon we passed the ' Geysir ' of 
Tonsberg. The captain came on board and had 
supper and a glass of grog with us. He was in such 
high spirits that none of us had the heart to tell him 
that he had lost three of his children from diphtheria 
since he sailed from home. Captain Jacobsen had been 
told it in a letter which he got in Iceland, but the 
father had heard nothing of it, nor did he learn it 
from us. One can thus live up here in the Arctic Sea 
without a suspicion of what is going on in the world. 
One's .joys and sorrows are bound up in the seal and 
sealing, and the whole of Europe might well collapse 
without the knowledge or regard of this section of its 

During the night, as we were making west along 
the ice, we passed the ' Morgenen,' one of Sven Foyn's 
ships. She was just coming out of the ice with the 
skins of three newly-shot polar bears in tow. Bear- 
skins are generally towed in this way for some time 
in order to clean them. Dietrichson and Sverdrup 


were much provoked at this, for the dearest wish 
of their hearts was to see and get a shot at a 

We now keep a westerly course for a few days, 
but the wind is against us and we do not make as 
much progress as we had expected, especially as we 
go into all the larger inlets in the ice to look for seal, 
of which we see but few. 

Of whales, on the other hand, we pass some 
number, and the smaller kind especially, the ' bottle- 
nose ' or ' bottle-head ' [Hyperoodon diodon), is not 
uncommon. They come five or six or often more 
in company, brushing close, as usual, to ■ the vessel's 
sides, gambolling as they go at times, and at times 
lying quite still in front of her bows. Extraordinary 
creatures they are, with the soft, round hump of fat 
upon their foreheads, which they generally carry 
above the water. This feature is especially pro- 
minent in the male, dropping sharply off down to 
the long, narrow beak into which the jaws are pro- 
longed, and which is scarcelv ever seen above the 

The 'bottle-nose' must be reckoned among the 
toothed whales, though it only has two small teetli. 
loosely fixed in the extreme front of the under-jaw and 
often wanting in the case of o\i animals. Evidently 
these teeth are not of the slightest use to them. 


They are only the last heirloom of their rapacious 
ancestors, who had a good equipment of sharp 
wedge-shaped teeth, like other dentiferous whales. 
An altered mode of life has meantime made teeth 
unnecessary ; little by little they have disappeared, 
and now only two are left. In their embryonic 
state, however, they haA^e the promise of a full com- 
plement of teeth bequeathed them by their fore- 
fathers. These whales no longer live on fish or other 
animals of size, like most of the toothed whales, but 
on jelly-fish and other small creatures which swarm 
at large in the sea and are- -swallowed wholesale, a 
process in which teeth play no part. 

Of what little use to them are the two teeth 
which they still possess, I had a striking proof 
some years ago. I had sent to me, while I was at 
the Bergen Museum, a tooth from a ' bottle-nose,' 
the crown of which was completely and closely 
covered with long cirripeds, a whole colony of both 
old and young. Some of them were so big that they 
must have hung outside the whale's mouth. Had 
this tooth been in use, the parasites would not have 
been able to remain for a moment without being 
torn from their hold. The tooth is still preserved in 
the Bergen Museum. 

Small observations like this, insignificant as they 
may seem, are yet of great interest to the naturalist. 


They show him what little ground there is for 
the antiquated but so commonly accepted doctrine 
of the absolute appropriateness of everything in 

Sometimes, too, we came across the huge blue- 
whale [Balcenoptera Sibbaldii), the giant of the 
animal world. Far away in the distance one can 
see them coming, hear them blowing, and see the 
golid column of spray rising from their nostrils. 
They come nearer, and then, perhaps before one ex- 
pects them, thrust up first a huge head with a sharp 
ridge running along the bridge of the nose, then a 
mighty back with a little fin far behind, out of the- 
water right alongside the ship. Then they exhale 
their breath and a treftiendous cloud of spray rises 
from the vent, and, just as when one turns the stop- 
cock of an engine boiler, one actually feels the air- 
vibrate. They look as large as the vessel one is 
standing upon. Then with a twist of the back they 
disappear again. 

On Sunday, June 10, we have thick and foggy 
weather. For several days we have been unable to 
take an observation and cannot tell how far we have 
advanced, though the current, which is strong here, 
must have carried us far to the west at the same 
time that we have made a good deal of way south. 
We must have reached that point where, if there is. 



to be any prospect of getting to land a;t present, the 
edge of the ice should be taking a more westerly 
or north-westerly direction. Of this there is no 
sign ; there are masses of ice extending in a south- 
westerly direction. This does not look at all hopeful. 
The real sealing season begins to get very near, and 
it may take the ' Jason ' a long time to make her 
way to the north-east again against the current, 
especially as it has begun to blow from the east. 

{From a sketch by the Author) 

Meantime the other ships may be taking seal, and I 
had bound myself' not to let my expedition interfere 
with the vessel's real business. 

So that morning we came to the conclusion that 
we must give up all attempts to land for the present, 
and wait for a better chance. We turn eastwards 
for the ordinary sealing-grounds, but wind and 


current are now in our teeth, and we have to beat up 
against them. 

Next day it clears up and we get a sight of land, 
the first alluring sight of the east coast of Greenland. 
We see high, jagged mountain tops, evidently the 
country north of Cape Dan. We are not so far 
away as we expected, perhaps rather more than sixty 

We find a narrow inlet cutting deep into the ice 
in the direction of land. It seems to stretch far 
inwards, and we cannot see the end of it even from 
the masthead. We determine to try how far we can 
get, and it is possible that we may find seal there too. 
We have the wind in our favour and make our way 
in quickly. We soon find the way blocked, but a 
sealer does not lose heart at such trifles. We force a 
passage and the floes of ice have to give way before 
the stout bows of the ' Jason.' Then we get into a 
large open poolwith no ice in sight between us and 
land. This looks promising. We take our latitude 
and longitude, and at noon find ourselves at 65° 18' 
N. and 34° 10' W. We are still some fifty miles from 
land, but our hopes begin slowly to rise as we think 
that we may perhaps after all be able to effect our 
landing without further waiting. 

But after steaming inwards for another couple of 
hours at good speed we again sight ice from the 

VOL. I. M 


masthead right in front of us. We go a httle way 
into it and see that it is packed so close that our 
vessel wiU find it difficult to force a passage through. 
We are now some forty miles from land, and, as the 
ice ahead is rather heavily packed and rough, it seems 
scarcely advisable to try and land now. It wiU b6 
better to wait, till later in the year when the ice wiU 
have diminished. 

It certainly seems to us that the ice. farther north 
is more open, and that we shall be able to get con- 
siderably nearer land that way, but, as I have said 
already, the ' Jason ' is out sealing, and if she forces 
her way through up there she will run the risk of 
getting stuck and losing the best of the season. This 
risk is not to be thought of, so we make our way out 
again and say farewell to the east coast of Greenland 
for the present. The fog soon hides the land again 
from our sight. 

Balto's description of his first sight of Greenland 
shows that the impression it made upon his mind 
was not altogether satisfactory. He writes : — ' After 
sailing for some days in the direction of Greenland 
we at last came within sight of land, but it still lay 
far in the distance some sixty or seventy miles away 
beyond the ice. That part of the coast which we 
could now see had no beauty or charm to the eye, 
but was dismal and hideous to look upon. Mountain 


peaks terrifically high rose like church-steeples into 
the clouds which hid their summits.' 

Next day we have a good proof of the strength 
of the current in these seas. We have been beat- 
ing up to the north-east the whole night long with a 
strong easterly breeze. Next day at noon we again 
see land in the same direction as on the day before, 
and, if possible, we are a little way stiU farther 
south. The current has been bearing us to the 
south-west all along. 

The next few days we beat up to the north-east 
along the edge of the ice, but make little way, as the 
wind is strong against us and the current carries us 
back. As hitherto, we see a great deal of whale. 
They are chiefly the ' bottle-nose,' several of the larger 
species of whalebone whales, most of them probably 
the blue-whale, and most of them moving westwards, 
possibly towards Greenland. Whales have evidently 
their migrations, though we know little or nothing 
about them. Now and again we see one of the 
smaller kinds of whalebone whale, which our sealers 
sometimes called ' klapmyts '-whale, as they maintain 
that it is in the habit of frequenting the grounds 
where the ' klapmyts,' i.e. the bladder-nose seal, is 
caught. It seeme^ that it might possibly be the 
same species as that found on the coasts of Fin- 
marken, where it is called the ' seie '-whale {Balceno- 


ptera borealis). Once or twice, too, I saw the killer- 
whale (Orca gladiator), the little species so readily 
known by its prominent back-fin, on which account 
the Norwegian fishermen call it ' staurhynning ' or 
' staurhval.' It is an unusually powerful little whale, 
is active in its movements, and provided with a set 
of dangerous teeth. It is the terror of the big 
whales ; when it appears they flee pell-inell, and one 
of these little gladiators alone is enough to put the 
giants of the sea to flight and even to drive them 
ashore before him. Nor is this terror the big 
whales have for their enemy aU ungrounded, as he 
pursues them and attacks them from the side. The 
kiUer generally hunts in companies, the members 
of which rush straight in upon the whales and tear 
great pieces of blubber out of their side, whence 
their Norwegian name of ' spsekhugger ' or - blubber- 
snapper.' In pain and despair the big whales lash 
the water and break away with the speed of light- 
ning, but closely followed by these little monsters, 
who do not desist until their victims, exhausted by 
loss of blood and exertion, throw up the game. Not 
only the whale, but the seal too, is the victim of 
the kiUer's rapacity. The Eskimo have told me 
that they have seen this animal — ' ardluk ' as they 
call him — devour a seal in a single mouthful. 

The killer of our coasts seems to some extent to 


lead a more peaceful life. He is an habitual visitor 
at our herring-fisheries, and then seems to live on 
nothing but herring and coal-fish, among which, 
however, he causes a deal of panic and confusion. 
He seems to show no tendency to attack the great 
whales with whom he comes into contact daily on 
these occasions, nor do they seem to have any fear 
of him. The reason of this mutual relation is not 
quite certain. Possibly at these times the killer gets 
enough fish-food and feels no desire for whale-blubber^ 
but it is also probable that the great whalebone 
whales which appear at the herring-fisheries, viz. the 
fin-whale [Balcenoptera musculus), and the pike-whale 
{Balcenoptera rostrata), are not the particular species 
which he is accustomed to attack. I am inclined to 
think that these two species are too quick for him, 
and that he therefore prefers the larger but less 
strong and speedy blue-whale, and possibly, too, the 
hump-backed whale [Megaptera hoops). 

Now and then we see seals asleep in the water. 
As they bob up and down with the waves they look 
like live ship-fenders floating on the surface. A few 
we see, too, on the scattered, drifting ice-floes. This 
probably means that there are more on the ice inside, 
but the air is thick and we have no time to look. We 
are impatient to see our fellows again ; it may be 
that they are hard at work, while we should be here 


poking about in the ice and very likely catching 
nothing, while they are in the thick of it. That 
would never do. 

At last we got a little wind from the west, and a 
couple of days' sail brought us to the rest of the 
fleet again. There was a general sigh of relief on 
board the ' Jason ' when it was known that the others 
had caught nothing since we left them. 

Day after day up till midsummer we now lay 
knocking about in fog and dirty weather at the edge 
of the ice, rolling in the swell, and never a seal did 
we come across. 

At St. Hans' tide there would be a change, said 
the sailors, but St. Hans' Eve and St. Hans' Day came 
and went, and there was no change except that on 
the Eve we got some splendid St. Hans' porridge and 
real fine weather with good. Christian sunshine. 
This made existence much more of a pleasure. As 
long as we had' the sun we could not coraplain, but 
never a seal was there to be seen, and this in itself 
is melancholy when one's lines are cast on board a 

All the vessels in Denmark Strait are now here 
together, some fourteen or fifteen in number. The 
whole fleet sail one after the other in and out of the 
inlets, like a flock of sheep. If one of them sets off 
into an ice bay, the whole lot follow ; if the first lies 


to, to consider matters, they all come and do the same, 
and if one turns they all turn, and out they go in a 
string again. And th^se manceuvres are repeated 
day after day, week aftJr week, but of seal, alas ! wg 
get none. This kind of thing gets worse than ever 
■towards the end of the month, which ought to be the 
best part of the season. This year all parts seem 
about equally good or bad. 

Some of my readers may like to have a fuUer 
account of the life and movements of this particular 
seal, and of the methods of capture employed against 
it, and, as I have had more opportunity than most 
people of making observations in this direction, I wilj. 
try in a separate chapter to shortly give as complete 
a description as my experience allows. There is 
still much, especially with regard to the migrations 
of this seal, which is obscure and needs further in- 

(By E. Niehen^from a sketch hij (he Author) 



The bladder-nose, the ' klapmyts ' of the Norwegians 
and Cystophora cristata of naturahsts, has its nearest 
connexions among seal-kind in Ishe sea-elephants of 
■western North America and the Antarctic Ocean, one 
point of resemblance being the hood which the male 
bears upon its nose, a feature which makes it strikingly- 
distinct from ah. other Arctic seals. It often attains 
considerable size, and next to the blue seal {Phoca 
harhata) is the largest of the seals found in Arctic 
waters from Greenland to Spitzbergen. It takes to 
the water immediately after birth, when it carries a 
coat of smooth hair, light or nearly white below, and 
grey on the back. At the first change this becomes 


somewHat spotted, and gradually as the young seal 
grows it becomes more and more dappled, till at 
maturity the coat has a greyish-white ground with 
numerous black spots, large and small, irregularly 
distributed over the whole body. These spots are 
smallest upon the head, but they are here so closely 
set that the effect is often that of a continuous black. ' 

As I have already said, the male seal has a kind 
of hood or bladder on its nose, which can be blown 
out to a size which is quite astonishing, and then 
gives the head a most extraordinary appearance. 
But it is seldom that this is done, and I have only 
seen it when the animal is excited or irritated, as for 
instance by being shot at. At ordinary times the 
hood is folded and generally hangs over the end of 
the nose like a short proboscis. 

It is not easy to see what purpose the hood serves. 
It would seem, to act as a protection to the nose, 
that being the most sensitive part of the animal, 
and to owe its gradual development to the struggles 
of the males for the possession of the females, the 
individuals best protected in this way having as a 
rule survived the contests and subsequently repro- 
duced their, kind. Eobert Brown is of the opinion 
that the female of this species also has a hood,^ but 

' ' Arctic Manual and Instructions,' London, 1875. — ' Natural 
History,' p. 64. 



fhis is a mistake, as she has no bladder which can 
be distended at all, though the skin over her nose 
is certainly somewhat loose and baggy. I do not 
feel by any means convinced that this explanation 
of the origin of the hood is the right one. The male 
seals certainly have violent struggles for supremacy 
in the breeding season, but I do not see why the 

l^By E. Nielsen from sketches by the Author) 

nose should be especially exposed on these occasions. 
It is possible that the excrescence is a personal adorn- 
ment to which the males have gradually attained, 
and that those individuals which are best furnished 
in this. respect find most favour with the females. 
But the taste which has led to such a result is no 
doubt somewhat surprising. 

The bladder-nose is, as I have said, a large seal. 


and possesses unusual strength. He is courageous 
too, and when he defends himself, as often happens, 
he is an opponent not to be trifled with. On the ice 
he can take very good care of himself, and in the 
water he is actually dangerous, and the Eskimo,. 
who have to capture him from their little 'kayaks,' 
or canoes of skin, have naturally a great respect 
for him, as he has been the cause of more than 
one death among them. Sometimes even these seals 
assume the offensive, as I found once in 1882, when 
my boat was attacked by a male bladder-nose, who 
threw himself over the gunwale and struck at me 
with his teeth. He missed me, but caught the 
wood-work, on which he left deep marks. 

This seal is an excellent swimmer and diver too, 
and to obtain its food, which consists chiefly of fish, 
it sometimes descends to extraordinary depths. How 
deep it will go is not known, but some idea may be 
formed from the fact that I once found between 
Spitzbergen and Jan Mayen some of the peculiar 
Norwegian red fish, the ' bergylt ' {Sebastes norvegicus), 
in the stomach of a bladder-nose. This is quite a 
deep-sea fish, its habitat ranging from sixty to ninety 
fathoms below the surface. If the pressure at this 
depth, which amounts at least to eleven atmospheres, 
be realised, it wiU be seen that this seal must possess 
a chest of considerable strength. As another proof of 


its immense power I may mention that it can jump 
out of tlie water on to a floe the edge of which 
lies as much as six feet above the surface. I 
have often seen them shoot suddenly out of the sea, 
describe a curve in the air, and plump down some 
way inside the edge of an ice-floe which was quite as 
high above the water as I have said. The impetus 
necessary for this purpose imphes an amount of 
power which the observer is scarcely likely to realise 
at first. 

The bladder-nose is ahnost entirely a seal of the 
open sea. It does not keep much to the coasts, but 
foUows the drifting floes in its migrations, and occurs 
aU over the Arctic Ocean and the northern Atlantic, 
from Spitzbergen to Labrador and Bafiin's Bay. It is 
not quite certain whether it goes further west, but it is 
not likely to do so to any great extent. Its easterly 
limits seem to be the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen, 
for it is not found off Nova Zembla. 

It is sociable in its habits, and in smaller and 
larger herds undertakes periodical migrations several 
times a year. On the west coast of Greenland, 
where the Eskimo regularly hunt it, it is known to 
disappear twice and reappear twice at fixed seasons 
every year, but where it goes while it is away is still 
uncertain. I consider it probable that the first time 
it disappears, in the winter or early spring, it goes in 


search of drift-ice which lies at a great distance from 
^the coast, the Greenland bladder-nose, for instance, 
retiring in the direction of Labrador, where they 
are taken in great numbers during the spring. Here 
they can bring forth their young in peace and quiet, 
the time of birth being about the end of March, and 
then towards the close of April or the beginning of 
May they appear on the coast of Greenland again. 
When they disappear for the second time, in June or 
July, it is again the drift-ice to which they resort. 
This is the season at which they change their coats, 
and during the process they do not readily take to 
the water. As a rule they lie basking and lounging 
about on the floes, where one may often see great 
heaps of the hair they have left behind them. At 
this time they eat very little, and towards the end of 
July they are very thin, in which condition they still 
are when they appear a second time on the Green- 
land coast in the month of August. 

The tract which this seal chiefly frequents is, 
beyond comparison, the stretch of sea which lies 
"between Iceland and Greenland. Here during the 
moulting-season they gather in enormous numbers, 
and here it is that the Norwegian sealers get their 
"best hauls. 

The bladder-nose season generally begins in June, 
at which time the sealers arrive in Denmark Strait 


after their season with the saddleback- or harp-seal 
{Phoca Greenlandica), which is taken in the neigh- 
bourhood of Jan Mayen. Even before this some of 
them have also been engaged in the capture of the 
bottle-nose whale {Hyperoodon diodon) off the north- 
east of Iceland. 

The first thing, of course, is to find the seal, and 
this is often a difiicult task, for it must not be 
supposed that they are at all generally distributed 
over the ice. The sealers often have to search for 
weeks, skirting the edge of the ice-fields and examin- 
ing every bay or inlet which admits of a passage in. 
The glasses are in constant use in the crow's-nest on 
the main-top. Then, if after long search signs of 
seal are at last discovered far away among the floes, 
and the ice does not lie too close to make a passage 
possible, the engines are at once put to their highest 
speed. The one object is now to push in and antici- 
pate one's competitors. Just as at the card-table 
there is no fellowship, so among the sealers of the 
Arctic seas altruism is a virtue unknown. Every 
ship does its best to outwit its fellows, and nothing 
brings so much satisfaction as the success of an in- 
genious trick. So, if there happen to be several 
vessels in one's neighbourhood when one discovers 
seal, and there is reason to believe that the others 
are still in ignorance of the find, the first thing is to 


entice the others away and set off in pursuit alone. 
To gain this objiect recourse is had to the most extra- 
ordinary stratagems. To steam off at full speed in 
quite a different direction, as if one already saw or 
expected to see seal in that quarter, so draw the 
others off, and then a while afterwards sneak back 
and start off to make one's capture alone, is an arti- 
fice in daily use at these times. 

When the vessel is then being driven with all the 
speed she can bear onwards among the floes, and the 
crew begin to suspect .that seal have been sighted 
from the look-out, there is soon life on board. The 
men gather in the bows and along the ship's side to 
get the first sight of their prey from the deck, and 
then all hands are set to work to get the boats ready 
and to see whether the bread and bacon lockers and 
beer-cask are properly supplied, whether there are 
cartridges enough in the box, and the rifles are all 
clean and in good order. Every detail is now seen 
to, and if there is nothing else to be done the 
skinning-knives have their last edge put on, that 
they may do their work well upon all the seal in 
prospect. Then up the men go on deck again to 
have another look ahead, following the direction of the 
long glass up in the crow's-nest above. Then, when 
one seal at last appears, they talk and gesticulate, 
and as more and more come gradually into sight, 


scattered like black dots among the floes, the 
excitement increases, and the men gather together 
into groups and eagerly discuss the probabilities of 
a real haul. Though they despondently prophesy 
failure and disappointment again, still every new seal 
that is seen is greeted with a fresh cry of welcome. 

Meanwhile the ship pushes slowly and steadily on, 
and the captain shouts his orders from above with 
now and again an oath or execration directed at the 
two poor wretches who are standing at the wheel and 
striving their utmost to do what they are told with 
promptitude and care. The curses, indeed, pass in 
at one ear and out at the other as they stand there 
working, till the sweat runs off them, while the ship, 
amid noise and crashing, labours from floe to floe 
and at each shock trembles in every joint, sometimes 
so violently that it is no easy matter to keep one's 
footing upon the deck. All the time the engines are 
pushed to the utmost and the screw leaves its swirling 
eddies, which are soon obliterated by the ice. The 
captain sits in the crow's-nest and feasts his eyes on 
the crowds of seal ahead, laying his plan of cam- 
paign the while and directing the vessel's course. It 
is an exciting time, this approaching of the seal, 
and expectation and anxiety prevail throughout the 

Then, when at last the order to get ready comes. 


there is a shriek of joy from one end of the vessel to 
the other. In the forecastle the confusion is at its 
highest ; no more sleep is allowed, the men get into 
their sealing-clothes, and a good meal is prepared on 
the crackling stove to give the boats' crews heart for 
their work. By this time, perhaps after several 
hours' steam through the ice, the ship is well among 
the seal, which are to be seen lying on all sides about 
the floes. But she still pushes on, till she ' is in the 
very midst of them, and the final order for the start 
is given. At once all hands drop into the boats, 
which are hanging clear in their davits over both 
sides of the ship. Then the shooters — there is only 
one in each boat's crew, and he takes command — re- 
ceive their orders from the captain, and the boats are 
lowered away. The ship has meanwhile slackened 
speed, and all life is transferred to the boats. Quickly 
they drop into the water and bear away, each in its 
own direction. It is a fine sight to see a sealer's ten 
boats thus get under way. The shooter stands up in 
the bows with his eye fixed on his seal. The cox- 
swain stands in the stern at his post, and the other 
three or four men of the crew bend eagerly to their 
oars ; aU is excitement and expectation, more intense 
than before. 

When the seal are actually reached the fusillade 
begins, often with all the liveliness of a hot briish 

VOL. I. N 


between skirmishing parties. If the day be fine and 
sunny, and there are plenty of seal around, lying 
basking lazily upon the floes, there is a fascination 
about the scene which will never cease to charm the 
mind of one who has been present at it. 

The main object of the shooter is, of course, to 
be the first back to the ship with a load of seal, 
and he tries to excite his men to the same ambition 
and urges them to their best efforts. The mode of 
approach is interesting. It is no use stalking the 
seal or drawing warily near under shelter of the 
floes, for this method is nearly certain to make them 
take to the water. On the contrary, one must avoid 
bringing one's boat behind a piece of ice which will 
conceal it from view, after the seal have once caught 
sight of it. It must be taken along in as open water 
as can be found, and as directly as may be in the 
face of the seal which are to be first approached. 
They ought to be able to see the boat, if possible, 
from the very first, for if they are taken at aU by 
surprise they disappear at once. 

As a seal catches sight of a boat in the distance 
he generally raises his head, but' if it is not near 
enough to alarm him he will very likely lie down at 
his ease again. Then, as the boat comes nearer, he 
lifts his head again, shows a certain amount of un- 
easiness, and looks first up at the strange object and 


then down at , the water below him. The boat is 
brought still closer, the oarsmen rowing with all 
their power ; the seal grows restless, drags himself 
stiU further out towards the edge of the floe, and 
gazes in his uncertainty at the boat and the water 
alternately. Now that he gives unmistakable signs 
of disappearing, the boat's crew at their captain's 
order set up a series of most terrific yells. The seal 
is at first petrified with astonishment at this strange 
phenomenon, but he soon recovers and drags himself 
still nearer to the edge. More yells, stiU more un- 
earthly and longer sustained than the first, stop him 
once more, and he stretches out his neck listening 
intently and staring in wonderment at the boat, 
which is all the while pressing in nearer and nearer to 
him. But now he bends over the edge of the floe, 
stoops down, and stretches his neck towards the 
water in spite of repeated yelling from the boat. He 
has now made up his' mind to go, and if the boat is 
not yet within range the only thing the shooter can 
do is to raise his rifle quickly and put a ball into the 
side of the floe just below his head, scattering the 
snow and ice in a shower over his chest and face. 
This is a new danger, and in terror he draws back 
again and drags himself on to the floe, gazing intently 
at the edge, where evidently a malicious and unseen 
enemy lurks close at hand. While the seal is still 

Tf 2 


pondering upon this new mystery, tlie boat has been 
brought by its vigorous oarsmen well into range. At 
the words ' Well rowed ! ' the oars are shipped and 
the boat glides on, the crew sitting still as the 
shooter raises his rifle, at the report of which the 
seal, shot in the forehead, lays his head down upon 
the ice for the last time. 


(Bif /:'. jyielsen,from a sketch ly tlte Author) 

If there are more seal on the same floe or the- 
surrounding ice, a large number may be shot then and: 
there. But the chief point is to hit the first ones so 
as to kill them on the instant. If this is done one 
can proceed at one's leisure, and if there are reaUy 
niany seal about one can make a good haul straight 
away. When I was out in 1882 I remember shooting. 


my whole boat's load on the same spot, and I could 
have multiplied the number again and again if I had 
been able to go on shooting. .For when one is once 
well in among the seal, and has the dead bodies of 
those one has shot lying round one on aU sides, the 
others lie quietly gazing at their dead comrades, whom 
they take still to be, alive. They evidently think that, 
if these can lie there so quietly while the enemy is in 
their midst, there can be no reason for them to move. 
On the other hand, if the shooter is unlucky enough 
not to hit the first seal or seals in an immediately fatal 
spot' such as the head, so that any of them begin to 
jump about the floe in their pain, or fall splashing into 
the water, it is pretty certain that the rest will take 
alarm and disappear too. For this reason it is much 
better to shoot wide altogether than to wound a seal, 
and it will easily be understood how important it is 
for a sealing-boat to be in charge of a reaUy good shot. 

As soon as the seal are shot they are skinned, and 
if there ^re several on the same floe the whole crew 
disembark and set to work. The great thing is to 
get them all done with the least possible delay, lest 
the other boats should get a chance of pushing on 
before. The object of every shooter is therefore to 
get quick and clever skinners among his crew. 

A good skinner will get through his work in an 
incredibly short space of time, and I have often seen 


the whole process completed in a couple of minutes. 
First comes a long slit down the front from head to tail, 
and a' few cuts on each side to separate the layer of 
bluhber from the flesh ; then,' with a few more gashes 
by the head and hind-limbs, the whole skin is d=raw;n 
off; the fore-limbs are then:cutaway,andthe process 
is complete. Only the skin- and the thick layer of 
blubber which lies between it and the flesh- are taken, 
the rest being Ipft on the ice as food for the sea-birds. 

The capture'of the bladderrnosein Denmark Strait 
is not an indusliry of very long standing. It -was 
inaugurated by the Norwegians in 1876, and their 
example' was -followed by a, few English- and American 
vessels. Tor the first ei^ht years the venture was an 
unprecedented success : the seal were more than 
plentiful,- and were shot down in thousands. During 
this period something like 500,000 head were cap- 
tured, and it is probable that quite as many were 
killed and lost. • After these years of plenty came a 
change, and ever since the; pursuit has been practir ' 
cally a failulre, all the vessels alike being equally 

The reason of this change -has puzzled the brain 
of many a sealer. He looks to unfavourable. condi-^ 
tions of wind, sea, and ice^ but in none of these can . 
he find consolation or encouragement to hope for 
better things in the future. It might be the case 


that the conditions were unfavourable for a year or 
two, but the ill success of summer after summer for a 
period of four or five years can scarcely be explained 
in this way. For instance, as regards the ice, I can 
testify from my own experience that the ' Jason ' 
made her way several times into grouTid which would 
undoubtedly have been called good when I was out 
in 1882, but on these latter occasions we found no 
seal. When we did find them they lay always farther 
in, where the ice was packed closest, and whenever 
it happened to open they invariably moved off, and 
always again farther inwards. 

The question now arises whether the bladder- 
nose still exists in its original multitudes. All 
who look upon the subject impartially must at once 
acknowledge it as obvious that there has been a 
considerable decrease in the numbers of the seal 
owing to the simple biitchery to which they have 
been exposed. To me, who have had opportu- 
nities of visiting the sealing-grounds in two different 
periods, the difference between past and present was 
very striking. Here, on the very same ground where 
in 1882 I saAV seal on all sides as soon as we had 
pushed a little way into the ice, and where I helped 
to shoot them down by thousands, there was now 
scarcely a sign of life to be seen. That there is a 
decrease in their numbers is certain, but I was no 


doubt inclined at first to consider this decrease 
greater than it really was, and to attribute to it alone 
the" failure of the industry in recent years. 

On July 3, 1888, I was induced to. modify my 
opinion on this point. We had penetrated, as my 
narrative will subsequently show, a long way into 
the ice, and came within sight of seal in numbers 
quite as great as anything I had seen before. But 
they lay where the floes were packed closest, and we 
could not get within reach of them. Here they were, 
then, in aU their numbers, on ice which we should 
never have searched in earlier years, because there 
were always enough and to spare on the outer floes, 
where they are now as good as extinct. As soon as 
I saw this unexpected abundance I was obhged to 
admit that the decrease could not be so great as I 
had hitherto supposed. # 

The failure of the sealers' must, therefore, allow of 
some other explanation. The conclusion I have gradu- 
ally come to is that, while the decrease of the numbers 
of the seal owing to excessive slaughter is a factor of no 
little importance, there is, nevertheless, another which 
has at least an equal bearing upon the result. This 
contributive cause seenis to be the alteration of the 
seal's habits and way of life, which may be due both to 
actual education and experience, and to the imperious 
laws of the ordinary struggle for existence. 


Many people seem to think that animals cannot 
develop their own faculties, and have no power of 
making observations, or of drawing conclusions from 
their own experience. I am not one of these people, 
and I believe that animals, wild as well as tame, have 
eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and understanding 
of the same kind as we men, if not in so high a 
degree. And the bladder-nose of Denmark Strait 
may perhaps be taken as a good instance of this. In 
earlier days this seal had a glorious time of it up here 
on his fields of ice. He ate, slept, had his love- 
passages, reproduced his kind, and, in short, enjoyed 
himself, and multiplied exceedingly. The old males 
had their internecine struggles indeed, and fought 
desperately for the females, but this is a state of 
things common upon the face of the earth, and it 
serves besides to make hfe more lively. Only one 
enemy had the bladder-nose in this his golden age, 
and this was the polar bear. But it was not often 
the bear troubled them, for, as he is not much of a 
swimmer, he prefers to keep to the closely packed ice 
well inside, while the seal in those days, for that very 
reason, frequented the outer floes. But in the year 
,1876 a polar bear of another kind, bigger and more 
voracious than the seals' familiar foe, paid its first 
visit to Denmark Strait. This was the Norwegian 
sealing-vessel ' Isbjornen,' or . the ' Polar Bear,' which 



was sent to these parts by Sven Foyn, the veteran 
among the sealers of Norway. The ' Isbjorn ' found 
heaps of seal, and carried off with her several thou- 
sand skins. The life of peace which the bladder-nose 

(By E. Nielsen) 

had hitherto enjoyed was now a thing of -the past. 
Every summer, at the end of May or beginning of 
June, fleets of Norwegian sealers found their way 
hither, and, as their victims were tame and unsus- 


pecting, great numbers were secured. So tame and 
confiding were they, indeed, the first few years that it 
was not necessary to shoot them. They were simply 
knocked upon the head where they lay, and some 
captains did not even allow their men to take rifles 
out in the boats with them. This period of bliss for 
the sealers was not, however, of long duration. The 
bladder-nose had not yet learnt the danger threatened 
by these vessels with their crow's-nests on the main- 
top and swarms of boats. But his experience soon 
taught him, and it was not long before he grew shyer. 
He would no longer let the boats come close in before 
he took to the water. The rifle had now to be used, 
often at long ranges, and even so it was not easy to 
fiU one's boats. The most remarkable thing was that 
it was not only the old seal that grew shy, but the 
youngest animals were now astonishingly wary. The 
parents must have imparted their experience to the 
ofispring, or the same result must have been brought 
about by heredity, though this seems scarcely likely 
to have happened in so short a time. "Whichever be 
the true reason, the fact remains that these seal have 
grown shyer year by year, or, in other words, have 
learnt to- protect themselves from an enemy hitherto 
unknown, and what is more, they have learnt this 
lesson in the short space of a decade. But I believe 
myself that the bladder-nose has learnt even more 


than this : that he has discovered that it is among the 
outer floes, where before he was safest, that danger 
now awaits him. He has found that if he wants 
to be undisturbed in the moulting-season, when he 
likes to be at his ease upon the floes, he must 
resort to the closely-packed ice inside. Here, in- 
deed, he exposes hiniself to the ravages of the bear, 
but he avoids a far worse enemy, the Norwegian 

Plausible as this theory seems, it must be admitted 
that there are also other ways of explaining this 
change of habit. If it be granted that in the begin- 
ning all individual seals are not equally shy, a fact 
which can scarcely be disputed, then the deduction 
readily follows that in the first yeal-s of the pursuit 
the least shy among both young and old will be the 
first to fall victims, while the warier will escape and 
continue to reproduce their kind. If this went on 
for a series of years we may suppose that, even if the 
individual seal learnt nothing from experience, stiU 
the general average of shyness would be much inten- 
sified by the mere weeding out of the lazier and 
less cautious among the flock. And so by the inter- 
breeding of these shyer animals the quality of wari- 
ness must gradually become fixed in the species 
and intensified by selection as time goes on. 

Though this explains the growing shyness of the 


seal, it does not account for its new tendency to seek 
the inner ice. But, just as one may take it for 
granted that originally, when the pursuit began, 
there were degrees of shyness manifested in the seal,, 
so we may suppose that there were also at that time 
individuals which preferred the outer, more open ice, 
and others which were accustomed to frequent the 
inner floes. Of course the first of these would b& 
most exposed to the onslaught of the sealers, and. 
they would be gradually killed ofi", and thus the 
tendency to retire farther and farther inwards would,, 
like the quality of shyness, become gradually esta- 
blished in the species. 

It is not easy to decide which of these two modes- 
of explanation will best account for the phenomena, 
we have just discussed. Probably both may hold 
good, each in its degree, and we may be allowed the- 
conclusion that it is partly education and experience,, 
and partly natural selection, resulting in the survival 
of the fittest, which have brought it about that the- 
seal of Denmark Strait have acquired a warier 
disposition and altered their habits since the days, 
when their capture was first attempted. In any 
case this seal is a remarkable example of the short, 
time necessary for the alteration of an animal's, 
manner of life and character. 

t ' .i ':P' 




(Uii Th. IIolmhoe,from an inalantaneom 



Afteh this long excursion I must return to our 
friends on board the 'Jason' and see how they have 
spent the time. 

As I have already said, we get very little seal and 
have not much to do in that way. There are enough, 
however, to give us a pleasant change in the way of 
sport, and while we drifted about in the ice we 
managed to have a very agreeable time on board. 


The pecuniary result of the season and future pro- 
spects in respect of the Arctic Sea were not of much 
concern to us. With the exception of now and then 
a day when our rifles did not carry as straight as they 
might have done, we had not many dark clouds on 
the horizon of our lives. 

To most of my companions this life is new. 
There is much to see and observe on the ice a:nd in 
the sea, and to a sportsman there is no lack of diver- 
sion. If there are no seal to stalk, one can go out and 
shoot auk. Of them there are plenty, and it takes no 
great time to make a bag of several score. 

It may be said that auk-shooting is not sport, but 
to lie in a boat oiF the edge of the ice and shoot the 
birds as they pass overhead is sufficiently amusing 
and not so very simple a business either, for at least 
I have at times seen them missed. And, if one 
cares to shoot them in the water, there again they 
provide a certain amount of entertainment. 

But to my mind the first of all our sports up 
here is the seal-shooting. It is excellent practice and 
tends in a remarkable degree to make one a cool and 
steady rifle-shot. Certainly the range is not, 
being some seventy to a hundred yards as a rule, 
but neither is the mark large at which one shoots. 
For the thing is to hit the seal only in thie head, or at 
worst in the neck. To hit him elsewhere is worse 


than missing him clean, as if shot in the body he 
takes' to the water at once. Sometimes when the- 
seal are shy the distances may be considerable, and 
when it is also taken into account that one has to 
shoot from a boat in motion, and that the light on 
the glittering, snow-clad ice is extremely trying, the 
reader will readily understand that it takes a good 
deal to make a good seal-shot. And, in fact, such 
folk are very rare. I have seen men who were 
excellent shots with a rifle if a fixed object were in,; 
question nevertheless shoot simply all over. the place: 
when they tried their hands at seal. ISTor is seal- 
shooting lacking in variety, and if one is lucky 
endugh to be put in charge of a boat as shooter, and 
happens to be out on a good day, the moments 
thus spent amid the ice in the little vessel, of which 
as shooter one is lord and master, may well be 
reckoned among the happiest in life. One is placed 
in the most glorious environment of ice, sky, and sea. 
The seal lie on the ice-floes around, and the sight 
of them causes to move at a quicker pace that hunter- 
blood which I believe aU of us who are not over- 
civilised possess, and sometimes perhaps without our 
knowledge, from the day of our birth and onwards. 
The sight grows keener, all the powers are as it were 
concentrated in the eye and in the arms that raise the 
rifle or wield the oar, and the mind is filled with one 



thought, and but one : to capture the seal, to bring 
one's boat througli the ice, and to secure the greatest 
possible number of the prey. 

It may be the spirit of the savage that comes 
forth in us at such times, the heritage from our 

(-Sy the author^ from a photograph) 

nomad ancestors who lived on their fish and game. 
But, whatever it may be, one thing is certain : that 
such a hfe is free and glorious and gives strength 
alike to mind and body. 

But when there is no shooting to be had, and 
gazing upon heaven, ice, and sea has at length grown 

VOL. T. ^ 


wearisome, we must look about us for some other 
amusement. For, however beautiful it all may be, 
and however much may have been instilled into you 
from the days of your childhood concerning the 
grandeur of the sea, the mighty, rolling, ever-changing 
ocean, there is nevertheless no manner of doubt that 
when you have stood and stared at it for weeks, or 
may be months, you are brought at last to the dis- 
covery that there is something monotonous in it all 
the same, and you sigh for change, or at least for 
something which would make the plane of the hori- 
zon a little less horizontal. But nothing of the kind 
came to us, and we therefore had to set to work 
to find ourselves diversion. 

One of our chief amusements, and one which 
always provided a deal of fun, was throwing with the 
lasso. Of the boatswain we would borrow from 
twenty to twenty-five yards of good pliant rope. At 
one end we made a noose, and our lasso was ready 
for its work. The Lapps were, of course, masters 
in its use, as they employ it daily in the capture 
of their reindeer, and it was of them we learned 
the art. Old Eavna particularly was supreme. It 
was a fine sight to see him with his confident look, 
with no doubt that he would hit his mark, coil up 
his line in his right hand. Then, with his head 
bent slightly forward, his eyes fixed steadily on the 


victim he had chosen, he would take a couple of 
steps, light and agile as a cat's, along the deck, and 
with a movement of the bent arm the line flew out 
with the speed of lightning and fell unerringly upon 
the head of the prey, who struggled in vain to free 
himself from the entangling coils. 

Balto, being a settled Lapp, was, of course, less 
practised in the use of the lasso, but this his pride 
would not suifer him to admit. So it was one of our 
commonest diversions to take the lasso from him with 
some depreciatory remark, and when it did happen 
that we really beat him' his air of astonishment and 
annoyance was something quite inestimable. 

We went in for many games too, and trials of 
strength with fingers, hands, and arms. One game, 
called ' blockhead,' was played very keenly. Some 
figures of various shapes and some squares were 
chalked upon the deck, and the latter were given 
difierent values. Then from a fixed point we had to^ 
throw into the squares with flat discs of lead, without 
pitching them on to the figures, which are called the 
' blockhead,' for by touching them one lost all the 
points which had been gained elsewhere. In fine 
weather, and when there was not too much sea, 
several games would be seen going on at once 
at different quarters of the deck, the usual stakes 
consisting of tobacco-screws. 


When this diversion failed to satisfy we had to 
retire into the cabin and take to cards, and, though 
several of us were no card-players by habit, we would 
sit and play through the afternoon and late into the 
night, or, as it sometimes happened, even in the, morn- 
ing too. Our games were chiefly whist, together 
with our native pastimes : ' dundrabas,' ' sproite,' and 
' kloVerknsegt.' "We had only one pack of cards, and 
at the end of the voyage these were so unclean) that 
it was a matter of difficulty to decide which was the 
more important constituent, dirt or paper. If, as we 
generally did, we sat up till midnight, we often found 
that we wanted something within us when the watch 
was changed. This would be either coffee or ' d^nge ' 
as we called it, i.e. bread fried in butter and sugar, 
and a very popular dish. 

At this time the men would get coffee too, and 
every single night we enjoyed the charming sight of 
JSalto coming, steeped in sleep and clad in the most 
shadowy attire, up the ladder from his cabin to make 
his way forward to the men and get his cup of mid- 
night coffee. As a Lapp he was so fond of coffee 
that he could not let such an opportunity of enjoying 
the glorious drink slip by unutilised, even if he had 
retired to his sleeping-place hours before. 

We had very little to read on board. I had not 
reckoned on so long a stay, and had not got a library 


together, though, thanks to a friend of the expedition, 
Herr Cammermeyer of Christiania, we were provided 
with a certain number of books." These, however, were 
soon devoured, and there arose an intellectual famine 
on board which we felt really keenly. We hunted up 
everything we could, and eveii the most rubbishy 
pirate stories and Indian tales that we could find 
among the men in the forecastle were swallowed with 
the .greatest avidity. Sometimes we went foraging 
. on board the other vessels to see what we could lay 
hands on, but our booty was generally of a miserable 

It was a great change for us when we were invited 
out to the other ships or when their captains capie to 
pay us visits. It waS a curious scene and one quite 
suggestive of summer to see these Arctic voyagers 
grouped in the sunshine about the deck, drinking 
their wine or coffee, smoking their cigars and pipes, 
and gazing out at the sea or the white ice-floes which 
lay quivering in the sunlight, while the time passed 
pleasantly amid jest and laughter. Sometimes, too, 
they would try their shooting skill on the floating 
lumps of ice, and many a good shot was brought ofi" 
on these occasions. 

The only one of us who seems not to have got 
on really well on board was our old friend Eavna, 
the elder of the Lapps. For him, wont as he had 


been to wander with his herd of reindeer over the 
mountain wastes of Finmarken, hfe on board a 
cramped, and rolling vessel seems to have had no 
attractions, and still less so because, as I fancy, he 
never got really used to the motion of the ship. He 
was always longing to feel land under his feet once 
njore, which, as we then hoped, he was about to do ere 
long. Our other Lapp, Balto, seems on the contrary 
to have found life at sea suit him extremely well. His 
bright and cheerful mind, always ready to produce 
some piece of mischief, made him the favourite of 
the whole crew. Luckily his right knee, which had 
been disabled by the accident during our ascent of 
GMmujokuU in Iceland, was now completely well. 

I will give one of his many practical jokes as a 
specimen. One day when standing on the deck, 
surrounded as usual by a throng of friends, he 
suddenly pulled a stalk of grass out of one of his 
' komager ' or deerskin boots and declared that with 
it he would raise from the deck on to his feet anyone 
who would lie down and take the end of it in his 
teeth. The bystanders wondered and pronounced it 
impossible, for, if the stalk would hold, the teeth 
would not, but Balto stood his ground and said that 
if anyone was willing to try he would prove his 
statement. At last one of the men offered himself 
on the understanding that his teeth should not be 


hurt. This Balto promised, and the performance was 
to take j)lace with all the crew round looking on. 
Meantime Balto asked them to excuse him a moment, 
as he had some preparations to make, saying that he 
would be back immediately. Then, unknown to us, 
he sneaked down into the smithy and filled the hand 
which held the stalk with ashes. Then he comes up 
on deck as;ain with the stalk in his hand as before, 
places the man on his back on the deck, stoops over 
him, and holds the stalk above his mouth. The 
fellow opens his lips to receive the stalk, while Balto 
opens his hand and fills his victim's mouth with 
ashes. Up flies the man on to his feet, coughing and 
spitting like one possessed, and greeted with shouts 
of laughter from the bystanders. Balto was fertile 
in notions of this kind. 

The horse we had brought with us from Iceland 
M^as the pet of the whole ship. Everyone wanted to 
look after him and give him his food. This, however, 
led to the extremely unpleasant result that, in spite 
of the strictest injunctions, liiore was used than we 
could afford, and one day I discovered that the hay 
was nearly out. From henceforth our pony was the 
cause of constant anxiety. We had to pinch and 
scrape in every way, and our inventive faculties were 
tried to the utmost in our endeavours to find new 
sorts of fodder. We gave him raw seal's flesh, which 


he ate for a time and then refused. We dried the 
flesh and gave it him, with the same result. Auk, too, 
he took for a while, and then we collected seaweed, 
masses of which were floating round us, and one 
kind of which he was especially fond of. In this 
way we kept him going for a long time, and he 
seemed to thrive pretty well and became an excellent 

The ninth of July, however, was a day of 
mourning for the expedition, for we had nothing 
more to give our pony that he would eat, and he had 
to be shot. So fond had we grown of him that it 
was quite. like losing a friend. The only service he 
did us was to give us a supply of good, well-flavoured 
beef, and one of his haunches accompanied us into 
the boats when we left the ship for land. 

A good proof of the punty of the air in these 
parts is the fact that meat can be kept in the rigging 
a long time without going bad. Here there are no 
' bacilli,' and consequently no putrefaction can take- 
place unless it come from the dirt of the ship itself 
which we have brought with us from home. 

The prejudices which people show against certain 
kinds of food are often almost ridiculous. I had 
some good examples of this at this time. After our 
pony had been shot and cut up in obedience to all 
the canons of the butcher's art, 'Yank,' as he was 


called on board, an American settler, came up to me 
and asked for some of the meat. I gave him as 
much as he liked, and he was highly delighted. He 
cut some small slices at once and ate them raw, and 
the consternation and disgust to which this innocent 
and natural action gave rise were extremely comical. 
As there was much more of the meat than the expe- 
dition could make use of, I offered some to the men, 
but not a single one of them would have it, because 
it was horseflesh. They declared they would rather 
eat their unwholesome salt food, though it caused 
every other one among them indigestion. After- 
wards, however, one of them came to me and asked 
whether he might have as much of the meat as there 
was to spare, as he wanted to salt it down. I was 
much gratified to find even one sensible man who 
was not a victim to these unhappy prejudices^ and I 
asked him if he would not like to have some which 
he could eat fresh, as it was so much better so. He 
answered that possibly I was right, but that I must 
not think that he was going to use such stuff for 
human food, for it was for the pigs at home that he 
wanted it. 

One is almost driven to despair sometimes when 
one sees how foolish and pig-headed people can be. 
Here are these sailors eating salt food and complaining 
of pains in the chest, as they call them, which only 


mean heartburn and indigestion, due to an unwhole- 
some diet, while they almost daily leave behind them 
on the ice heaps of fine fresh seal's-flesh, such masses 
as would gladden the hearts of Europeans as well as 
Eskimo on the coasts of Greenland. But to get these 
people to eat it is out of the question ; no, rather 
will thev die of starvation than eat such ' unclean ' 
food. I shall not soon forget their consternation one 
dsLj when I collected the blood of a freshly killed 
seal, and got the steward to make a pudding of it. 
It was very difficult to get any of them to taste it. 
Those who did were obliged to allow that it was 
excellent, and yet none of them could bring them- 
selves to eat it, because it was seal's blood. Eor this 
very reason some of the members of the expedition 
used to eat all the more of such things, and one of 
them one day, after he had had his usual supper, 
which should have been enough for him, consumed 
no less than eighteen blood-pancakes. Here at least 
we had no prejudice to deal with. But otherwise it 
is quite remarkable how prejudices have found their 
way into all the relations of life, in great things as 
well as small, and corrupted them. 

In one way I had more to do on board than I 
really cared about, and that was in the office of 
doctor. The reason of this was the unfortunate 
circumstance that I bore the title of doctor, since to 


tlie generality of such folk one kind of doctor is just 
the saiTie as another. And now they all turned up 
ill to a man. seeing that they had a doctor so handy, 
and it was not only among the sixty-four men of the 
' Jason's ' crew that I found my patients, but they 
swarmed on board us from all the other -^'essels to 
•ask the doctor's advice as to what was the matter 
with them. To try and make these people compre- 
hend that all doctors will not serve the same pur- 
pose would have been worse than useless. Doctor 
I was, and doctor I must be, and if I would not 
doctor them it was nothing but perversity. There 
was nothing to be done but to put a good face 
"on the matter, and the healing art has suffered the 
admixture of so much humbug at all times that I 
felt that I could not injure its prestige seriously if 
I did practise a little imposture myself. And be- 
.sides, it is often said, and no doubt with truth, that 
the most important influence a doctor has on his 
patients is through the confidence with which his 
personality inspires them. In this case there seemed 
to be no lack of confidence ; the onlj^ thing was to 
make use of it, to assume a grave and important air, 
and let the rest take care of itself. 

Some specimens of the consultations I had regu- 
larly to go through will perhaps interest m)- readers. 

The commonest thing was that a man would 


come to me with his hand on his stomach, complain- 
ing of pain in the chest. Did he not feel a sort of 
heaviness in the head too ? I would ask. Oh yes, he 
was not sure that he did not. Was not his digestion 
sluggish, and did not, he suffer from constipation too 
at times ? Oh yes, he certainly thought he did. In 
these cases I would tell them that their indisposition' 
was due to their way of life on board. They were 
much too lazy and ate too much altogether, especi- 
ally of salt food, while the way they fried everything, 
in quantities of butter and grease, was not at all good 
for them. They must put a stop to all that, eat less, 
and eat fresh meat when they could get it, such as 
seal's-flesh — I knew, of course, that they would never 
do so — move about more in the fresh air up on deck 
and get a little exercise, and not sit all day idly on a 
chest in the stuffy fore-cabin. If this did not make 
them better they might come again, and I would 
give them a dose of Epsom salts or castor oil. I 
never heard any more of them, as they did not seem 
to care for thie last proposition. 

Others used to come and complain of bad heads 
and attacks of melancholy. I used to inquire as to 
the state of their stomachs, and whether they were 
subject to constipation. They generally owned to 
imperfect digestion, and I used to say the case was 
clear enough : too lazy a life and too much to eat. 


More work and less food was wha.t they wanted, and 
I would give them the same advice as the others. 
Sometiines, too, a little abdominal ' massage ' was 
recommended, and as I gave this counsel gravely, I 
used to picture to myself the sight of these fel- 
lows lying in their bunks and rubbing their own 

One day a man belonging to one of the other 
vessels came on board with no little difficulty. He 
had a red complexion, as consumptive patients often 
have, and a hectic flush on his cheeks. He complained 
of bad lungs, and it was clearly a bad case of decline. 
He was of course incurable, and I could do nothing 
for him. The only thing I could recommend him to 
do was to keep himself fat ; he might eat blubber 
and drink oil,, but that was all the consolation I could 
give him. He had been drinking oil lately, but it 
was ' bottle-nose ' and did not seem quite to suit him. 
Poor fellow ! bottle-nose oil has a very powerful effect 
internally and causes severe diarrhoea, which he had 
been plagued with for some time, and which did not 
tend to make things better. 

I was able, however, to do some good by attending 
to their sores, which, in a general way, were treated 
most shamefully, and often gave rise to severe inflam- 
mation. JSTor did they Qome for advice until they 
were really bad. My treatment began with a good 


homily on the subject of cleanliness. I then had the 
wound cleansed from the filth of weeks, and then 
treated it antiseptically. As a rule, these sores would 
heal in a reasonable time, but I had one case of rather 
a serious nature. 

One day one of the crew came to me complaining 
that he felt miserably ill all over. He had pains in all 
his joints and limbs. I asked him where he was worst, 
and he said it was in his back. Weary as I was of 
all these fellows who had pains in one part or another, 
I told him it must be rheumatism, and that there was 
not much to be done with it. He must keep himself 
well clad and not expose himself to the wind more 
than he could help. But a day or two later the man 
came again and said I really must do something for 
him, for he was so bad he could not stand it any 
longer. It had taken to his arm now, which had 
begun to swell. My suspicions were now aroused, 
and I at once asked him whether he had not had a 
sore place on his hand. He said not, which sur- 
prised me, but then I saw a rag on one of his fingers 
and asked him what it meant. He said that was 
nothing, he had only knocked a little skin ofi" one of 
his knuckles some days ago. Then I asked if the 
place had not been painful. He thought it might 
have been, just a little. I at once told him that 
there he had the cause of his bad arm, and that 


it was entirely his own fault. If he had looked 
after the sore on his finger properly and kept it 
clean, he would never have had all this. Now he 
must wash his finger carefully and bare his arm, and 
I would come and look at it. As I supposed, it turned 
out to be an advanced case of blood-poisoning, and 
the arm was considerably swollen above the elbow. 
However, I did not see what I could do to it just 
then, but put it in a sling, strictly forbade the man to 
use it, and told him to keep himself quiet generally. 
But he got worse every day, his arm swelled, the pain 
increased, and he had to take to his bunk. To ease 
the pain we put wet bandages round the arm, but he 
fell into a high fever and was able to eat little or 
nothing. At last the arm was as big as an ordinary 
man's thigh. I saw it was high time for an operation,, 
but I confess that I did not like the idea of it. 
Everybody thought he was bound to die, and that I 
might as well let him off, but it was my notion that 
he was going to live. I went to see him several 
times a day. - I shall never forget the scene : a cabin 
containing nearly sixty men, who were making a 
noise, jabbering together and playing all sorts of 
tricks — anything indeed but a good sick-room. The 
sick man lay in a cramped, stuffy bunk, writhing and 
groaning in his pain, till the whole cabin rang with 
his lamentations. The place was dark and low,. 


ship's cliests stood about, and sailors' things hung or 
lay strewn in every corner ; the floor was dirty and 
slippery, and the air close and stufiy. Now and again 
the ship would charge against the ice, the whole hull 
would tremble, the man was thrown from one side of 
his berth to the other, a pang of pain would shoot 
through him, and he would utter shrieks more heart- 
rending than ever. It was in this place I had to lance 
him, as there was no question of waiting longer. A 
penknife ground upon a rough, coarse stone was the 
only suitable instrument to be found, while the opera- 
tion had to be performed by the flickering light of a 
miserable lantern, and it was difiicult enough to get 
anyone to hold this, so much did the others fear the 
sight. At last aU was ready, in went the steel, and a 
long incision was made. The poor fellow shrieked as 
if we were killing him ; a few drops of blood appeared, 
and then the matter rolled out of the wound in streams 
of white. It was a relief to the lookers-on, but the 
patient lay there groaning and half in a swoon, and 
then began to wander. 

He was delirious at intervals for several days. 
The men were quite afraid to stay in the cabin, as 
they thought he was at the point of death. At the 
same time another of the crew went off his head, 
and of him they were still more afraid. Nor is it to 
be wondered at when they had one madman in their 


narrow cabin, and another wandering in delirium — a 
state of things by no means comfortable. 

I had to operate on my patient once again. The 
matter that came out of him might have been 
measured by the quart. He mended slowly, for his 
strength was much reduced, but before I left the ship 
in July I had the satisfaction of seeing him up and 
about again. I shall not readily forget his look of 
gratitude when we parted. 

A recapitulation of the entries in my diary at 
this period would have httle interest for any but 
Arctic travellers. I had really little to record except 
how we drifted into the ice and then out of it again, 
how the floes at one time opened and then packed 
close, how we saw one day more and another day 
less seal, and sometimes even large numbers of 
them on the pack-ice far inside ; how we forced our 
way through difSculties in a race with the other ships 
towards these masses of seal ; how they disappeared 
in the water just as we came up to them, and we got 
nothing ; and very similar experiences, which made 
our history a mere course of repetition. 

VOL. I. 




On June 28 we were far in the ice, about 66° 24' N. 
and 29° 45' W. We could see land to the north, 
N.B. ^ E. magnetic, and two mountain tops were 
especially prominent. However, we could not tell 
their real form, since, owing to the 'looming' or 
optical distortion so common over these ice-fields, 
and due to the refraction of light through the dif- 
ferent layers of warm and cold air, they were much 
altered, and looked like abruptly truncated peaks 
rising out of an embrasured parapet. They must 
have been the peaks by the Blosseville coast, though 
they lay more to the west than those marked on the 
map. I had a talk afterwards with Captain Iversen 
of the ' Stserkodder,' who had been further into the 
ice to the north. He could there see land quite 
distinctly : a very mountainous coast — this was pro- 
bably at about 68° E". L. — not low, as it was farther 
down, i.e. at about 67° N. L., where he had been in 
near shore in the year 1884. ■ This account agrees to 
some extent with the description which Captain Holm 


had from the Eskimo of Angmagsalik, and on which 
he based his sketch of the east coast farther north. 
This shore, in fact, is one of the least known regions 
on the earth. 

On the evening of June 28 we saw a great num- 
ber of seal far in among the ice. About this time 
we used to see them daily, but could never get at 
them. On July 3 we at last got a long way in amid 
a quantity of seal, but the ice lay so close that it was 
impossible to work the boats, and we consequently 
got nothing. In the middle of the night, when the 
sun gets down to the horizon, one can see a long way 
and very distinctly across the fields of ice. One 
night I went up to the mast-head to look at the seal. 
I turned my glasses towards land, and saw them in 
greater numbers than I remember to have ever seen 
them before. They lay, as the mate said, ' scattered 
about the ice like coffee.' From north-east to north- 
west, wherever I turned my glasses, there were seal 
lying as close as grains of sand, stretching away to 
the horizon and probably much further still, and the 
further away they were the thicker they seemed to 
be. It was glorious to see such an amount of life. 
The seal are not yet extinct, but they have learned* 
wisdom, have altered their habits, and retired to the 
remoter pack-ice, and we get none of them. 

Next day was foggy, and the floes lay closer still, 

p 2 


while the swell of the sea began to reach us. In 
the course of the afternoon we got out of the ice 

On July 11 the ice was moving violently, as we 
had come into one of the stronger currents. As two 
or three of us' were sitting in the mess-room the 
' Jason ' was struck so heavily by a floe on the bows 
that she was literally driven back. We rushed out 
and saw another big floe advancing with great speed 
upon her quarter. The shock comes, the whole 
vessel quivers and heels over, we hear a crash and 
the rudder is gone, but luckily the damage is no 
worse. Had the floe struck us full in the side, there 
is no telling what might have happened, as it would 
have found the sealer's weakest point. 

Next day we spent fixing the spare rudder which 
these vessels always carry, and we were soon as sea- 
worthy as before. But the summer was now so far 
advanced that there was little prospect of our getting 
more seal. So on July 13 it was resolved, to the 
satisfaction of us all, to l^ave the ice and make 
westwards for Greenland. That day, however, and 
the next, we did get some seal, in all about a 
hundred, which we passed on the outer ice. 

On the night of the 14th the mate had sighted 
land, and the same again in the morning, and then 
at no very great distance. Later, however, it grew 


foggy, arid we could no't tell how near we were, 
though we thought we could not be far off, as we 
had been sailing all day towards it in open water. 

Our baggage is brought up upon deck, all pre- 
parations are made for our departure, and our de- 

(By the author, from a photograph') 

spatches and letters are written. Towards dinner- 
time, as I sit down below busy with my correspond- 
ence, I hear the magic word 'land' from the deck. 
I rush up, and a glorious sight meets my eyes. It 
seemed, so to say, to set the finest chords of my 
heart vibrating. Eight before me through the veil of 


mist lay the sunlit shore of Greenland, the glorious 
array of peaks which lie to the north of Cape Dan. 
Ingolfsfjeld is especially prominent, but further to 
the north there seem to be still higher tops. Never 
have I seen a landscape of more savage beauty, or 
nature in wilder confusion, than here — a landscape 
of sharp peaks, ice, and snow. 

We were probably about thirty-five miles from 
land, but as we see ice ahead we turn southwards, 
continually drawing nearer. It looks as if we could 
get right into shore down by Cape Dan, as the belt 
here trends inwards. But as we get nearer we find 
that there is more ice than we expected. 

On our way south we pass several enormous ice- 
bergs, and on one or two of them we saw rocks. 
When one first sees these monsters at a distance they 
look like tracts of land, and several times we thought 
we saw islands lying right ahead, though when we 
came nearer we found them to be nothing but ice. 
South of Cape Dan especially were numbers of these 
giants lying aground. 

However, we could make no attempt to land that 
day, nor on the next. There was too much ice, the 
belt being from fifteen to twenty miles wide, and 
it seemed better- to see how things looked further 

On the 16 th we passed Cape Dan, which is un- 


mistakable with its round dome-like form. The ice 
still lay far out to sea, the belt being over fifteen 
miles in width. Further west, however, the blue tint 
of the air suggests that there is a deep inlet stretch- 
ing landwards. We pin our hopes on this channel, 
make for it, and in the course of the night actually 
reach it. 

When I came upon deck on the morning of the 
17th, I saw plainly enough that the landing must be 
attempted that day, and a climb to the masthead 
only served to strengthen my resolve. The moun- 
tains round Sermilikfjord lay enticingly before us. 
Further west we could see the ' Inland ice,' the goal 
of our aspiration, stretching far inwards in a white 
undulating plain. This was the first time we had 
come within sight of it. 

It could not have been much more than ten or 
twelve miles to the nearest land, and for the first bit 
the ice was fairly practicable. Further in certainly 
it seemed to be somewhat closely packed, but I 
could see small pools here and there, and on the 
whole the ground looked as if it might well have 
been worse. At places I could see a good deal of 
small ice, which makes the portage of the boats 
difiicult, though, again, it is better to deal with than 
the larger floes, which are often hard to move when 
it is a case of forcing the boats through the water. 


But what especially struck me as making the out- 
look hopeful was the reflection from open water which 
I could see from the masthead beyond the ice, and 
between it and land. The probability, therefore, was 
that when we had broken our way through the middle 
of the ice-belt, where the floes lay closest, we should 
then find looser ice merging into the open water be- 
yond. It would no doubt have been an easy matter 
for a boat like the - Jason ' to push her way through 
this little belt, for often before we had gone through 
much worse ice. But then it had been a case of 
seal, the real business of the ship, while now things 
were in a somewhat difierent position. Had the 
vessel been mine, I should not have hesitated a 
moment about taking her in ; but, as a matter of 
fact, we were only guests on board, and, besides, she 
was not insured against the risks of effecting a 
landing in Greenland. The currents and soundings 
of these waters are as yet unknown, and if the 
'Jason' were to lose her propeller in the ice she 
would probably be gone beyond all chance of salva- 
tion. She could not well supply its place, and, worst 
of all, in case the ship had to be abandoned here, it 
might be very difficult for her crew of sixty-four men 
to make their way to inhabited parts with the small 
stock of provisions they had on board. And fur- 
thermore, as I believed that we could get through 


without help, I never thought for an instant of 
asking the captain to take us further than to the 
edge of the ice, but gave orders to have our things 
packed and the boats got ready. 

As I have already said, we had brought one boat 
with us which had been specially made for us in Ohris- 
tiania. But, as this would have been heavily laden 
with the somewhat voluminous equipment of the 
expedition, I gladly accepted the captain's kind offer 
of one of the ' Jason's ' smaller sealing-boats. So we 
had the two lowered and brought alongside, and 
there arose an unusual bustle on board with the 
opening of our cases and the packing of the boats. 
I cannot say which were more eager to help, the 
members of the expedition or the ship's crew ; but I 
think I may assert with confidence that the eager- 
ness of the latter was not due to their anxiety to see 
the last of us, but to simple good-will of the most 
unselfish kind. 

The last touches were given to our despatches 
and home letters ; and if any of us had a specially 
dear friend to whom he wished to send a final fare- 
well, it was sent, I take it, for it was not quite cer- 
tain when the next meeting would be. But my com- 
panions seemed in a particularly cheerful humour, 
and there was no consciousness to be seen, in the 
little band of pi'eparation for a serious struggle. Nor 


was this to be wondered at, seeing that after six 
weeks of waiting and longing the hour of release 
was now at hand. The sensation which the sight 
of land that morning gave me was nothing short 
of delicious. As I then wrote to a friend, our 
prospects looked brighter' than I had ever dared to 
hope. I had a sense of elasticity, as when one is 
going to a dance and expecting to meet the choice of 
one's heart. A dance indeed we had, but not on the 
floor of roses which we could have wished, and' our 
heart's choice certainly kept us a long time waiting. 

I may here perhaps quote a part of the letter 
which I hastily wrote that day to the Norwegian 
paper ' Morgenbladet ' : — 

' The " Jason " :. July 17, 1888. 

' Our landing did not come off on the 15th, or 
yesterday either. There was a belt of ice some 
fifteen or twenty miles broad between us and land. 
This belt certainly consisted to some extent of open 
ice through which we could have towed, but we 
wanted to get further to the west, past Cape Dan, and 
to -the neighbourhood of Inigsalik, to the west of 
Sermilikfjord, where the coast is less broken than 
further east. I think the country north of Cape Dan 
is the very wildest and roughest I have ever seen ; I 
scarcely think the most savage parts of Norway or 


even the Alps themselves are to be compared with 
it for mountain tops of fantastic form and Titanic 
aspiration. Certainly the heights are not so con- 
siderable, one of the loftiest 'being Ingolfsfjeld, of 
some 6,000 feet. This is a sharp, very conspicuous 
peak, which we had kept in sight during the whole 
of our voyage along the coast. However, I thought 
that further north, and possibly further inland, I could 
see summits which were still higher. Still, the country 
north of Cape Dan has not yet been explored and 
never even trodden by a European foot. Yesterday 
we passed the Cape, and at this moment we are only 
about ten or fifteen miles from land, with Sermilikfjord 
right in front of us, ready, as soon as all our prepara- 
tions are made, to get into our boats and leave the 
ship, believing that we shall be able to row through 
loose and open ice all the way to the shore. To the 
left of us lies Inigsalikland, and behind the mountains 
we here see for the first time the edge of the " Inland 
ice," the mysterious desert which in the near future is 
to be, as far as we can see, our playground for more 
than a month. 

' Inigsalikland appears to be comparatively level 
and not particularly broken ground, and exactly 
suited for the ascent of the ice. It was Captain 
Holm, the leader of theDanlsh "Konebaad" expedition, 
who recommended me to try this part, and, as far as 


we can see from here, we are not likel}'' to be dis- 

' But our two boats are already alongside awaiting 
our departure. As there is so little ice, I have 
borrowed one of the " Jason's " sealing-boats to use in 
addition to th-at which we brought from home. It is 
much more convenient to have two. and much safer as 
well, as we may get one crushed in the ice. 

' And now it is time for us to bid the bold and 
plucky skipper of the " Jason, ' Captain Jakobsen, and 
all his good men, farewell. We all carry with us 
from the " Jason " many dear memories of good friends 
and pleasant hours. We enter our boats with our 
hope of a successful enterprise quite unshaken. A 
wise man of the Greeks has certainly said that hope 
is a waking dream, but as a matter of fact dreams 
sometimes reach fulfilment, and I feel sure that ours 

' I hope to be able to reach Kristianshaab before 
the last Danish vessel leaves in September, and in 
that case we shall be home in the autumn, but if not 
we shall come next summer. — Good-bye. Yours, 

'Feidtjof Nansen.' 

Towards seven o'clock in the evening everything 
is ready for our start. Sermilikfjord lies now straight 
in front of us. According to the results of cross- 


bearings taken from points on shore we ought to be 
about nine miles from its mouth. I go up to the 
mast-head for the last time to see where the ice looks 
easiest and what wiU be our best course. The reflection 
of open water beyond the ice is now more clearly 
visible than before. In a line somewhat west of 
Kong Oscars Havn the ice seems raost open, and I 
determine to take that course. 

More confident than ever I descend to the deck, 
and now the hour of departure is at hand. The whole 
of the ' Jason's ' crew were assembled. In spite of 
our joy at the prospect of a successful start, I think 
it was with somewhat strange feelings that we bid 
farewell to these brave sea-folk, with whom we had 
now spent six weeks, and among whom we had each 
of us found many a faithful friend, who at this mo- 
ment assumed a doubtful air or turned away his 
head with an expressive shake. No doubt they 
thought they would never see us again. We shook 
hands with Captain Jakobsen last of all, and in his 
calm, quiet way this typical Norwegian sailor bid 
us a kind farewell and wished us God-speed. 

Then down the ladder we went, and into the boats. 
I took charge of our ' Jason ' boat with Dietrichson 
and Balto at the oars, while Sverdrup steered the 
other with Eavna and Kristiansen. 

' Eeady ? Give way then ! ' And as the boats rush 


tlirougli the dark water before the first vigorous 
strokes, the air rings with three lusty cheers from 
sixty-four voices, and then come two white clouds 
of smoke as the ' Jason's ' guns send us her last 
greeting. The report rolls heavily out into the 
thick, saturated air, proclaiming to the silent, solemn 
world of ice around us that we have broken the 
last bridge which could take us back to civilisation. 
Henceforth we shall follow our own path. Then 
good-bye ! and our boats glide with regular strokes 
into the ice to meet the first cold embrace of that 
nature which for a while is to give us shelter. AU of 
us had the most implicit faith in our luck ; we knew 
that exertion and danger awaited us, but we were 
convinced that we must and should get the better of 

When we had got some way into the ice a boat 
and twelve men in charge of the second mate over- 
took us. They had been sent by Captain Jakobsen 
to help us as far as they could the first part of the 
way by dragging our boats or forcing a passage. 
They kept with us for a while, but when I saw they 
cduld be of very little use to us, as we worked our 
way through as fast as they did, I thanked them for 
their kindness and sent them back. We then reach 
a long stretch of slack ice, wave farewell to the boat,, 
and push on with unabated courage. 


At first we advanced quickly. The ice was open 
enough to let us row our way to a great extent 
among the floes, though now and then we had to 
force a passage by the help of crowbars and axes. 
There were few places where we had to drag our 
boats over the ice, and then the floes were smaU. It 
had begun to rain a little before we left the ' Jason ' ; 
it now grew, heavier, and the sky darkened and 
assumed a curiously tempestuous look. It was an 
odd and striking sight to see these men in their 
dark-brown waterproofs, with their pointed hoods, 
like monks' cowls, drawn OA^er their heads, working- 
their way surely and silently on in the two boats, 
one following close in the other's wake, amid the 
motionless white ice-floes, which contrasted strangely 
with the dark and stormy sky. Over the jagged 
peaks by SermiUkfjord black banks of cloud had 
gathered. Now and again the mass would break, 
and we could see as if through rents in a curtain far 
away to a sky still glowing with all the hngering 
radiance of an Arctic sunset, and reflecting a sub- 
dued and softer warmth upon the edges of the 
intercepting veil. Then in a moment the curtain 
was drawn close again, and it grew darker than 
ever, while we, stroke upon stroke, pushed indefatig- 
ably on, the rain beating in our faces. Was this 
an image of our own fate that we had seen, to have 


all this radiance revealed to us and tlien hidden 
and cut off by a veil of thick, impenetrable cloud ? 
It could scarcely be so, but the soul of man is 
fanciful and superstitious, ready to see tokens on 
all sides of him, and willing to believe that the 
elements and the universe revolve on the axis of 
his own important self. 

The ice now gave us rather more difficulty, and 
we had often to mount a hummock to look out for 
the best way. From the top of one of these look-outs 
I waved a last farewell to the ' Jason ' with our flag, 
which she answered by dipping hers. Then we 
start off again, and quickly, as we have no time to 

From the first we had had a big iceberg far to 
the west of us, but now for a long time we had been 
astonished to see how much nearer we were getting 
to it, though we were not working in its direction, 
as our course lay considerably to the east. We saw 
it must be the current which was taking us west. 
And so it was ; we were being carried along with 
irresistible force, and it soon became plain that we 
could not pass to the east of this iceberg, but would 
have to go under its lee. Just here, however, we 
drift suddenly into a tearing mill-race which is driv- 
ing the floes pell-mell, jamming them together and 
piling them one upon another. Both our boats are 


in danger of destruction. Sverdrup drags his up on 
to a floe, and is safe enough. We , take ours on 
towards an open pool, though every moment in 
danger of getting it crushed. The only course is to 
keep a sharp look-out, and clear all the dangerous 
points by keeping our boat always over the so-called 
' foot,' or projecting base of the floe, or in a recess or 
inlet in its side, when a nip is threatened. This is not 
easy in these irresistible currents, but by our united 
efibrts we succeed, and reach a large open pool to 
the lee of the iceberg, and are for the time secure. 
Now comes Sverdrup's turn ; I signal to him to 
follow us, and he succeeds, keeping his boat in 
calmer water than we had. 

We now find many good lanes of open water on 
our way inwards. The ice jams only once or twice, 
especially when the current carries us against one of 
the icebergs which lie stranded round about us, but 
it soon opens again, and we pass on. Our prospects 
are good, and our hearts are light. The weather is 
better too : it has ceased to rain, and the king of day 
is just rising behind the jagged background of Ser- 
mihkfjord, setting the still clouded heaven in a 
blaze and lighting his beacons on the mountain tops. 

Long stretches of water lie in front of us, and I 
already fancy I can see from the boat the open water 
beyond the ice. We are very near the land to the 

VOL.. I. a 


west of Sermilikfjord, and I can clearly and distinctly 
see the stones and details of the rocks and mountain 
side. It does not seem possible that anything can 
stop -US, and prevent our landing, and we are so self- 
confident that we already begin to discuss where and 
when we shall take our boats ashore. Just at this 
moment the ice packs, and we are obliged to find a 
place of safety for our boats, and drag them up. 
This we do, Sverdrup a little way ofi" us. We have 
not secured a very desirable harbour for our boat, as 
the approach is too narrow, and when the floes part 
again and we are taking her out, a sharp edge of ice 
cuts tlirough a plank in her side. She would no 
longer float, and there was nothing to be done but 
unload her and pull her up on to the floe for repairs. 
Sverdrup and Kristiansen took her in hand and 
mended her again with really masterly skill, and with 
little loss of time, considering the wretched imple- 
ments they had to use. We had nothing to give 
them but a bit of deal which had formed the bottom 
board of one of the boats, some nails, a hatchet, 
and a wooden mallet. This broken boat, however, 
settled our fate. While we were at work the ice 
had packed again, the clouds had gathered, and the 
rain began to pour down in torrents, enveloping all 
around in gloom and mist. The only thing to be 
done was to get up our tent and wait. 


It is now ten o'clock on the morning of the 18 th 
of July. The best thing we can do is to crawl into 
our sleeping-bags and take the rest which is not un- 
welcome to us after fifteen hours' hard and con- 
tinuous work in the ice. 

Before we turned in, it grew a little clearer sea 
waj-ds, and through a break we caught sight of the 
' Jason ' far away. She was just getting up full 
steam-, and a while later she disappeared in the 
distance, no doubt comfortably believing that we 
were now safe on shore. This was our last glimpse 
of her. 

' When Eavna saw the ship for the last time,' 
writes Balto, ' he said to me : " What fools we were 
to leave her to die in this place. There is no hope 
of life ; the great sea wiU be- our graves." I an- 
swered that it would not have been right for us 
two Lapps to turn back. We should not have been 
paid, and perhaps the Norwegian consul would have 
had to send us to Karasjok out of the poor rates. 
This would have been a great disgrace.' 

While we were asleep it was necessary for one of 
us to keep watch in order to turn the others out, in 
case the i<;e should open enough to let us make 
further progress. Dietrichson at once volunteered 
for the first watch. But the ice gave little or no 
sign of opening. Only once had I to consider the 

' a2 


possibility of setting to work again, but the floes 
closed up immediately. Dragging our boats over 
this ice was not to be thought of ; it was too rough, 
and the floes were too small. So, while the rain 
continues we have more time for sleep and rest than 
we care for. 

In fact, we were already in the fatal current. 
With irresistible force it first carried us westwards 
into the broader belt of ice beyond Sermilikfjord. 
Here it took a more southerly direction and bore us 
straight away from shore, at a pace that rendered all 
resistance on our part completely futile. Had we not 
been detained. by our broken boat, we should pro- 
bably have been able to cross the -zone where the 
current ran strongest and get into quieter water 
nearer shore. As it was, the critical time was wasted 
and we were powerless to recover it. 

The force of the current into which we had thus 
fallen was considerably greater than had been pre- 
viously supposed. That a current existed was well 
known, and I had taken measures accordingly, but, 
had I had a suspicion of its real strength, I should 
certainly have gone to work in a different way. I 
should in that case have taken to the ice considerably 
further to the east, and just off Cape Dan, and had 
we then worked inwards across the line of the stream 
we should probably have got through the ice before 


we were driven so far west, i.e. past the mouth of 
Sermihkfjord, and into the broader belt of ice where 
the current turns southwards. Then we should, as 
we had expected, have reached shore all well on 
July 19, and chosen our landing-place where we had 
pleased. But now it was our fate to see how well 
w^e might have managed. We had seen the open 
water under the shore, we had seen the rocks on the 
beach ; a couple of hours of easy work, and we 
should have been there. But Paradise was barred 
in our faces ; it was the wiU of Destiny that we 
should land many miles to the south. 

Meanwhile the rain is descending in streams, and 
we are constant^ at work keeping our tent-floor 
clear of the pools of water which finds its way in 
through the lace-holes. After we have spent nearly 
twenty-four hours in the tent, mainly engaged in 
this occupation, the ice opens enough to tempt us 
to continue our efforts to reach land with renewed 
courage and restored vigour. This was at six 
o'clock on the morning of July 19. 

The rain has abated somewhat, and through an 
opening in the fog. we can see land somewhere near 
Sermilikfjord. We are much more than double as 
far distant from it as we had been— some twenty 
miles, in fact ; but we look trustfully forward to the 
future. For even if we did not reach shore at 


Inigsalik, as we had hoped, we can still do so further 
south at Pikiudtlek. All' we have to do is to work 
resolutely across the current, and we must get to 
shore sooner or later. As far as we could see, this 
was plain and simple reasoning and gave us no 
ground for apprehension, but experience was to 
show us that our premisses were not altogether in 
accordance with fact. The main factor in the calcu- 
lation, the strength of the current, was unfortunately 
an extremely uncertain quantity. 

However, determination and courage were not 
wanting. We worked with glee, got to the lee of a 
huge iceberg, found lanes of open water stretching 
far inwards, and pushed a good way on towards land. 

Then the ice packs again, and we have to take 
refuge on a floe once more. The sun now finds its 
way through the clouds from time to time, so we 
pull our boats right up on to the floe, set up our 
tent and settle down as comfortably as we can, get a 
change of clothes on, and dry a few of our wet 
things. This was a process I had especial need of, as 
in the course of our day's work I had fallen into 
the water owing to the breaking of the edge of a 
floe as I was jumping into the boat. An involuntary 
bath of this kind was, however, an almost daily 
experience to one or other member of the expedition. 
Later on in the day the sun comes out altogether, 


and we pass a really pleasant afternoon. "We do 
thorough justice to the tins of provisions sent us . 
from the Stavanger Preserving Factory, and we have 
no lack of drink. Had we had no more beer in our 
keg, we could have found plenty of the most delight- 
ful drinking-water in pools on the floes. 

Our keg, I may say, belonged to the boat the 
- Jason ' had handed over to us. All the small boats 
attached to the sealers are provided with a keg of 
beer and a chest of bread and bacon. The keg and 
chest the captain had let us carry off well supplied, 
much to our present comfort. 

We now for the first time can hear rather clearly 
the sound of breakers on the edge of the ice towards 
the sea, but pay no particular attention to the fact. 
We seem to be drifting straight away from land, and 
the tops of the mountains by Sermilikfjord gradually 

That evening I sit up late, long after the others 
have crept into their bags, to take some sketches. 
It is one of those glorious evenings with the marvel- 
lously soft tones of colour which seem to steal so 
caressingly upon one, and with that dreamy, melan- 
choly light which soothes the soul so fondly and is 
so characteristic of the northern night. The wild 
range of jagged peaks in the north by Sermihkfjord 
stands out boldly against the glowing sky, while the 


huge expanse of the ' Inland ice ' bounds the horizon 
far away to the west, where its soft hues melt gently 
into the golden background. 

The evening was lovely, and the ' Inland ice ' lay 
temptingly and enticingly just before me. Strange 
that a narrow strip of drifting floes should be able to 
divide us so hopelessly from the goal of our desires ! 
Is not this often the case in life? The land of 
enchantment looks so alluring and so near. One 
spring would take us there, it seems. There is but 
one obstacle in our waj^, but that one is enough. 

As I sit and sketch and meditate I notice a 
rumbling in the ice, the sound of a growing swell 
which has found its way in to us. I turn seawards, 
where it looks threatening, and, thinking that there 
is a storm brewing out there, but that that is of small 
consequence to us, I go at last to join my slumber- 
ing comrades in the bags to sleep the sleep of the 

Next morning, July 20, I was roused by some 
violent shocks to the floe on which we were en- 
camped, and thought the motion of the sea must 
have increased very considerably. When we get 
outside we discover that the' floe has split in two not 
far from the tent. The Lapps, who had at once 
made for the highest points of our piece of ice, now 
ghout that they can see the open sea. And so it- is ; 


■far in the distance lies the sea sparkHng in the 
morning sunshine. It is a sight we have not had 
since we left the ' Jason.' 

I may here reproduce the entries in my diary for 
this and the following day : — 

' The swell is growing heavier and heavier and 
the water breaking over our floe with ever-increasing 
force. The blocks of ice and slush, which come from 
the grinding of the floes together, and are thrown up 
round the edges of our piece, do a good deal to break 
the violence of the waves. The worst of it all is that 
we are being carried seawards with ominous rapidity. 
We load our sledges and try to drag them inwards 
towards land, but soon see that the pace we are drifting 
at is too much for us. So we begin again to look 
around us for a safer floe to pitch our camp on, as our 
present one seems somewhat shaky. When we first 
took to it it was a good round flat piece about seventy 
yards across, but it split once during the night, and is 
now preparing to part again at other places, so that 
we shall soon not have much of it left. Close by us 
is a large strong floe, still unbroken,, and thither we 
move our camp. 

' Meanwhile the breakers seem to be drawing 
nearer, their roar grows louder, the swell comes 
rolling in and washes over the ice all round us, and 
the situation promises before long to be critical. 


' Poor Lapps ! they are not in tlie best of spirits. 
This morning they had disappeared, and I could not 
imagine .what had become of them, as there were not 
many places on our little island where any of us 
could hide ourselves away. Then I noticed that some 
tarpaulins had been carefully laid over one of the 
boats. I lifted a corner gently and saw both the 
Lapps lying at the bottom of the boat. The younger, 
Balto, was reading aloud to the other out of his 
Lappish ISTew Testament. Without attracting their 
attention I replaced the cover of this curious little 
house of prayer which they had set up for them- 
selves. They had given up hope of life, and were 
making ready for death. As Balto confided to me 
one day long afterwards, they had opened their hearts 
to one another herie in the boat and mingled then- 
tears together, bitterly reproaching themselves and 
others because they had ever been brought to leave 
their homes. This is not to be wondered at, as they 
have so little interest in the scheme. 

' It is glorious weather, with the sun so hot and 
bright that we must have recourse to our spectacles. 
We take advantage of this to get an observation, our 
bearings showing us to be in 65° 8' N. and 38° 20' W., 
i.e. 30 minutes or about 35 miles from the mouth of 
Sermilikfjord, and from 23 to 25 minutes or about 80 
miles from the nearest land. 


' We get our usual dinner ready, deciding, how- 
ever, in honour of the occasion, to treat ourselves to 
pea-soup. This is the first time we have allowed our- 
selves to cook anything. While the soup is being 
made the swell increases so violently that our cooking 
apparatus is on the point of capsizing over and over 

' The Lapps go through their dinner in perfect 
silence, but the rest of us talk and joke as usual, the 
violent rolls of our floe repeatedly giving rise to 
witticisms on the part of one or other of the com- 
pany, which in spite of ourselves kept our laughing 
muscles in constant use. As far as the Lapps were 
concerned, however, these jests fell on anything but 
good ground, for they plainly enough thought that 
this was not at all the proper time and place for 
such frivolity. 

' Prom the highest point on our floe we can clearly 
see how the ice is being washed by the breakers, 
while the columns of spray thrown high into the air 
look like white clouds against the background of blue 
sky. No living thing can ride the floes out there as 
far as we can see. It seems inevitable that we must 
be carried thither, but, as our floe is thick and strong, 
we hope to last for a while. We have no idea of 
leaving it before we need, but when it comes to that, 
and we can hold on no longer, our last chance will be 


to try and run our boats out through the surf. This 
will be a wet amusement, but we are determined to 
do our best in the fight for life. Our provisions, am- 
munition, and other things are divided between the 
two boats, so that if one is stove in and sinks 
we shall have enough to keep us alive in the other. 
We should probably be able to save our lives in 
that case, but of course the success of the expedition 
would be very doubtful. 

' To run one of our loaded boats into the water 
-through the heavy surf and rolling floes without 
getting her swamped or crushed will perhaps be 
possible, as we can set all our hands to work, but it 
will be difficult for the crew of the remaining boat 
to get their ship launched. After consideration we 
come to the conclusion that we must only put what 
is absolutely necessary into one boat, and keep it as 
light as possible, so that in case of extremity we can 
take to it alone. For the rest, we shaU see how things 
look when we actually reach the breakers. 

' We have scarcely half a mile left now, and none 
of us have any doubt but that before another couple 
of hours are passed we shall find ourselves either rock- 
ing on the open sea, making our way along the ice 
southwards, or sinking to the bottom. 

' Poor Eavna deserves most sympathy. He is not 
yet at all accustomed to the sea and its caprices. 


He moves silently about, fiddling with one thing or 
another, now and again goes up on to the highest 
points of our floe, and gazes anxiously out towards the 
breakers. His thoughts are evidently with his herd 
of reindeer, his tent, and wife and children far away 
on the Finmarken mountains, where all is now sun- 
shine and summer weather. 

' But why did he ever leave all this ? Only because 
he was offered money ? Alas ! what is money com- 
pared with happiness and home, where all is now 
sun and summer ? Poor Eavna ! 

' Val ar farval det svaraste bland orden 
Och mycket skont der finnas an pa jorden.' 

' It is but human at such moments to let the 
remembrance dwell on what has been fairest in life, 
and few indeed can have fairer memories to look 
back upon than yours of the mountain and reindeer- 

' But here, too, the sun is shining as kindly and 
peacefully as elsewhere, down on the rolling sea and 
thundering surf, which is boiling round us. The 
evening is glorious, as red as it was yesterday, and as 
no doubt it will be to-morrow and ever after, setting 
the western sky on fire, and pressing its last long 
passionate kiss on land and ice and sea before' it dis- 
appears behind the barrier of the " Inland ice." There 
is not a breath of wind stirring, and the sea is roUing 


in upon us ruddy and polislied as a sMeld under 

the light of the evening sky. The words of our good 

old song come unconsciously into my mind : — 

' Havet er skjont naar det roligen hvEelver 
Staalblanke skjold over vikingers grav.' 

' Beautiful it is, indeed, with these huge long 
billows coming rolling in, sweeping on as if nothing 
could withstand them. They fall upon the white 
floes, and then, raising their green, dripping breasts, 
they break and throw fragments of ice and spray 
far before them on to the glittering snow, or high 
above them into the blue air. But it seems almost 
strange that such surroundings can be the scene of 
death. Yet death must come one day, and the hour 
of our departure could scarcely be more glorious. 

' But we have no time to waste ; we are getting 
very near now. The swell is so heavy that when we 
are down in the hollows we can see nothing of the ice 
around us, nothing but the sky above. Floes crash 
together, break, and are ground to fragments all 
about us, and our own has also split. If we are going 
to sea we shall need all our strength in case we have 
to row for days together in order to keep clear of the 
ice. So all hands are ordered to bed in the tent, 
which is the only thing we have not yet packed into 
the boats. Sverdrup, as the most experienced and 
cool-headed among us, is to take the first watch and 


turn US out at the critical moment. In two hours 
Kristiansen is to take his place. 

' I look in vain for any sign which can betray fear 
on the part of my comrades, but they seem as cool as 
ever, and their conversation is as usual. The Lapps 
alone show some anxiety, though it is that of a calm 
resignation, for they are fully convinced that they have 
seen the sun set for the last time. In spite of the roar 
of the breakers we are soon fast asleep, and even the 
Lapps seem to be slumbering quieitly and soundly.. 
They are too good children of nature to let anxiety 
spoil their sleep. Balto, who, not finding the tent 
safe enough, is lying in one of the boats, did not even 
wake when some time later it was almost swept by 
the waves, and Sverdrup had to hold it to keep it on 
the floe. 

' After sleeping for a while, I do not know how 
long, I am woke by the sound of the water rushing 
close by my head and just outside the wall of the 
tent. I feel the floe rocking up and down like a 
ship in a heavy sea, and the roar of the surf is 
more deafening than ever. I lay expecting every 
moment to hear SA^erdrup call me or to see the tent 
fiUed with water, but nothing of the kind happened. 
I could distinctly hear his familiar steady tread up 
and down the floe between the tent and the boats. 
, I seemed to myself to see his sturdy form as he paced 


calmly backwards and forwards, with his haads in 
his pockets and a slight: stoop in his shoulders, ' or 
stood with his. calm' and thoughtful face gazing out 
to sea, his quid now and again turning, in his cheeke- 
I remember no more,- as I dozed off to sleep again. 

' I did not wake again till it was full morning. 
Then I started up in, astonishment, for I could hear 
nothing of the breakersbut a distant thunder. When 
I got outside the tent I saw that we were a long way 
off the open sea. Our floe, however, was a sight to 
remember.! Fragments of ice, big and little, had been 
thrown upon it by the waves tiU they formed a ram- 
part all round us, and the ridge on which our tent 
and one of ■ the boats stood was the only part the sea 
had iiot washed. 

' Sverdrup now told us that several times in the 
course of' the night he had stood by the tent-door 
prCparesd to turn us out. Once he actually undid one 
hook, then waited a bit,. took another turn to the boats, 
and then another look at' the surf, leaving the hook 
unfastened in case of accidents. We were then right 
out at the.'extreine edge of the ice. A huge crag of ice 
was; swaying in the sea close beside us arid threaten- 
ing every 'nloment to fall upon our floe.- The surf 
was 'washing us, on all sides, but the rampart that had 
been thrown up round us did us good service, and the 
tent and one of the boats still stood high and dry. 


The other boat, in whicli Balto was asleep, was 
washed so heavily that again and again Sverdrup 
had to hold it in its place. 

' Then matters got still worse. Sverdrup came to 
the tent-door again, undid another hook, but again 
hesitated and'waited for the next sea. He undid no 
more hooks, however. Just as things looked worst, 
and our floe's turn had come to ride out into the 
middle of the breakers, she suddenly changed her 
course and with astonishing speed we were once more 
saihng in towards land. So marvellous was the 
change that it looked as if it were the work of an 
unseen hand. When I got out we were far inside 
and in a good harbour, though the roar of the 
breakers was still audible enough to remind us of 
the night. Thus for this time we were spared the 
expected trial of the seaworthiness of our boats and 
our own seamanship. 

VOL. I. 




' The 21st of July is a quiet day following a 
stormy night. All is rest and peace ; we are drawing 
steadily away from the sea, the sun is shining kind 
and warm, round us stretch the fields of ice in silence 
and monotony, and even the Lapps seem relieved. 

' One thought only consumes me : the prospect of 
the expedition failing for this time, and of a year 
being thus thrown away. Well, we can only do our 
best, and for the rest, as we say at home, " anoint our- 
selves with the good virtue of patience." 

' "We take advantage of the sun to get an observa- 
tion. We find ourselves to be 64° 39' N. and 39° 15' 
"W. We can still see the peaks by Sermilikfjord, and 
the " Inland ice " from Pikiudtlek northward toward 
Inigsalik stretches majestically in front of us, looking 
with its flat unbroken horizon like one vast white 
expanse of sea. No peaks rise from its surface except 
a fringe of dark tops and rocky points here and there 
along its outer edge. 

'Down here the coast is verv different from the sur- 


roundings of Sermilik, Angmagsalik, and Ingolfsfjeld. 
There, further north, the land rose high, abrupt, and 
wild out of the sea, the calm surface of the " Inland 
ice " hidden behind a glorious range of Titanic peaks, 
whose sublime beauty captivated and held the eye, 
and whose summits the all-levelling ice-mantle has , 
never been able to envelop, destroy, and carry with 
it to the sea. Here, on the contrary, the land is low, 
the ice-sheet has brought its limitless white expanse 
down to the very shore, and the few projecting points 
that do appear are humble and unobtrusive. They 
have been planed by the ice, which by its overpower- 
ing might has borne all before it seawards. Wild- 
ness there is here too, but the wildness of desolation 
and monotony. There is nothing to attract the eye 
or fix its gaze, which therefore roams helplessly 
inwards over the alluring desert of snow, till it is 
lost in the far distance, where the horizon bars its 
further range. Sad to say, it is all too far distant 
from us. It is strange that we should have been so 
near our goal and then driven so far to sea again. 

' The floes now part a little, and we see a stretch of 
slack ice leading inwards. We launch one boat and 
try to make some way, but to little purpose, as the 
slush of ice and snow that lies between the floes and 
comes from their grinding together in the swell is so 
thick that our heavily laden craft will make no 


progress. So we abandon tlie attempt; to drag our 
sledges and boats over the floes is out of the question 
too, as the channels between them are too wide. We 
still hear the breakers in the distance ; the swell stiU 
roUs in and keeps the ice packed close.' ' 

This day, the first on which we found time 
to do anything but simply work our way ahead or 
sleep, our meteorological record was begun. It was 
kept mainly by Dietrichson, who always, even in the 
most trying circumstances, devoted himself to it with 
most praiseworthy ardour. We noted chiefly the 
temperature, the pressure, the moisture of the air, 
the direction and force of the wind, and the extent 
and form of the clouds. Observations were taken 
as often and as circumstantially as possible, but of 
course on such an expedition, every member of which 
is as a rule fully occupied with work of an arduous 
kind, many gaps are likely to occur in the meteoro- 
logical record. This is especially the case at night, 
when one takes the rest earned by a day of real 
exertion. Yet I think I may say that the record we 
brought home is in spite of all remarkably complete, 
and contains many valuable observations, thanks to 
Dietrichson's indefatigable zeal. 

The days that now follow, spent in drifting in 
the ice southwards along the coast, are somewhat 
monotonous, each much as its fellow. Every day 


we M^atch intently the direction we are drifting, the 
movements of the ice, and every gust of wind, in the 
hope that a lucky turn may bring us in to land. 
From the darkness of the air overhanging the ice, 
we feel sure there must be open pools along the 
shore, or else in the ice to the south of us. It is a 
life of hopes and disappointments, and yet a life not 
without pleasant memories for many of us. 

As some of m.j readers may find it interesting, 
and especially such as may contemplate future ex- 
peditions in the ice, I will give a short extract from 
the entries in my diary at this time. To others I 
will recommend a skip to the next chapter : — 

' Late in the afternoon of July 21, from a high 
hummock of ice, we can see a very narrow channel 
stretching far away to the south of us. As far as 
we can judge we are drifting along this towards its 
end, which seems to be far in towards shore. Our 
hope of a change in our luck, and a speedy landing, 
naturally at once increases. 

' July 22. — In the night a fog comes on and hides 
everything from us. We cannot tell which way we 
are drifting, but the breakers sound no less distinct 
than they have been. Later at night, however, we 
do not hear them so plainly, and the swell quiets 
down a little. 

' The fog continues the whole day, and the rolling 


as well. At noon, however, it clears up so much 
overhead that, by the help of a pool of water on our 
floe as an artificial horizon, I can take an observa- 
tion. I find our latitude to be 64° 18' N., so we are 
moving well southwards. 

'As in the course of the morning the ice opens a 
little, we try an empty boat in the slush between the 
floes. We can get on, but it is very slowly, and we 
think it is better to save our strength, as in the fog 
we cannot see which way we had better work. 
Possibly a good chance of pushing for land may 
offer, and we shall then want all our energy. 

' In the afternoon it clears, and we seem to be 
possibly a little nearer land. A gentle breeze from 
the magnetic N. by E., or about the true W. by N., 
begins to blow, and we hope it may increase and 
part the ice, though the rolling still goes on. What 
we want is a good storm from land, which would 
kill this swell which is rolling in and holding the ice 
together, and would carry the floes seawards instead, 
while we should be able to push in between them. 

' We see a number of big seal, bladder-nose, lying 
on the floes around us. Many of them bob their big 
round heads out of the pools close alongside our 
floe, stare wonderingly at these new dwellers on the 
ice who have thus appeared, and then, often with 
a violent splash, vanish again. This is a daily 


experience. We could easily shoot them, but, as we 
do not want them now, we leave them in peace. 
We have enough fresh meat as yet, a big haunch of 
our little horse which we brought oS the " Jason." 
Through the afternoon the ice remains packed. 

^July 23. — During the night we keep Watch, two 
hours apiece, and we get a good laugh at Eavna. 
He does not understand the clock, and did not know 
when his two hours were up. So to make safe he 
willingly kept at it for five or six hours before he 
turned the next man out with the innocent inquiry 
whether he did not think the two hours were over. 

'At half-past seven Dietrichson calls us up. We 
find the ice open, and, though there is slush between 
the floes, practicable. After loading our boats and 
waiting half an hour on account of the ice packing 
again, we reaUy get some way in to some pools which 
I can see from a high point stretch landwards. For 
a time we get on fast. Before we left our last floe 
a flock of some black duck flew past us, making 
north. The sight was hke a greeting from land, and 
served to raise our hopes still further. It is quite 
astonishing, otherwise, what a scarcity of bird-life 
there is .up here. There is not even, a gull to be 

' We work inwards towards land the whole day, 
wait patiently while the ice packs, but push on all the 


harder when it opens again. As we get near land 
our hopes rise. A raven comes flying from the south- 
west and passes over our heads, making northwards. 
This is another greeting from land, and we are still 
more encouraged. 

' We see several big seal, full-grown bladder-nose, 
lying about the floes round us. The temptation is 
too strong for a sportsman to withstand, and Sverdrup 
and I start ofi" to shoot an old " hcettefant" as we call 
him, i.e. an old male with the bladder on his nose, 
who was lying close by. I managed to stalk him 
successfully and shot him, but when we got up to 
him he was not quite dead. In my zoological zeal I 
wish to improve the occasion by making observations 
on the colour of the eyes, the form of the bladder in 
the living animal, and other points which are not yet 
clearly known to science. While I am thus engaged 
the seal flaps along towards the edge of the floe, 
and before we know what he is about he is slipping 
ofi" the ice into the water. As he is falling I drive the 
seal-hook I am carrying into him, and Sverdrup does 
the same with his boat-hook. It is now a case of pull- 
devil, pull-baker between us, and we try and hold up 
the seal's tail and hinder parts, in which his strength 
lies, so that he shall not get a stroke in the water 
with them. For a time we succeed, but with diffi- 
culty, for in his death-agony his strength is great. 


So, finding that we have not a really good hold of 
him, I tell Sverdrup to take the rifle and shoot him, 
and I will try and keep him up meanwhile. He 
thinks, however, that his hold is better than mine, 
and that I had better leave go, and, while we are 
hesitating, both our hooks come away, the seal gives 
a couple of violent flaps, and is gone. Crestfallen 
and discomfited, we' look now blankly in each other's 
faces, now helplessly into the dark water, where an 
air-bubble rises mockingly here and there to break 
on the surface, and to give us our seal's last greeting. 
Though he would have been of no great use to us, we 
felt not a little foolish at having lost so fine a booty 
in so silly a way. Sverdrup, too, thought he was 
the biggest seal he had ever seen. Compassionate 
readers may console themselves with the thought 
that his sufferings were of no long duration. His 
struggles were but the last convulsions of his death- 
agony. The bullet had certainly been of somewhat 
small calibre, but had hit him in the right place, in 
the head. 

' As the evening wears on we are stopped. We 
have got into some unusually roiigh and difiicult 
hummocky ice, which is closely packed and makes 
the hauling of the boats almost impossible. So we 
spread our tent with the sleeping-bags on the top in 
order to be the more ready for a start in case the ice 


opens. We tlien get into our bags, setting the usual 
watch, but as it turns out the ice does not open. 
The dew is very heavy during the night, so that the 
bags are found very wet in the morning. 

' July 24. — To-day the ice is packed just as close, 
and we determine to drag the boats and sledges land- 
wards. Most of our baggage is laid on the sledges, 
so that they can be put into the boats when we come 

i^By E ,Melsen, after photographs) 

to open water. Just as we are ready to start, the ice 
opens, and we manage to punt ourselves along a good 
way, though eventually we have to take to hauling. 
We get on but slowly, as the ice is not at all good, 
but this is at least better than nothing, and we are 
steadily approaching land. Our hopes are at their 
culmination. It is the coast north of Igdloluarsuk 
which we see before us, and we begin at once to 
reckon how long it wiU take us to reach Pikiudtlek, 


where we shall be able to begin our journey over the 
ice. To-day, too, we see more birds : a raven and a 
flock of eight short-tailed skuas. Birds are always a 
comfort to us, and make our life much brighter. 

'As the ice is difficult and the sun hot in the 
middle of the day, we halt and pitch our tent while 
dinner is being prepared. It consists to-day of raw 
horse-flesh and marrowfat peas. The preparation gave 
rise to a comical scene. From the horse's leg which we 
brought with us from the "Jason" I proceeded to cut 
off as much meat as I thought was enough for six 
men, chopped it up on the blade of an oar, turned 
it into one of the divisions of our cooker, sprinkled 
some salt on it, added the contents of a couple of tins 
of peas, stirred the whole mixture up, and our dinner 
was ready. Balto had been standing by my side 
the whole time, watching every movement intently, 
and indeed now and again giving me his assistance. 
He was hungry, and was looking forward to a good 
dinner, as he told me. Though, like the Lapps and 
other unenlightened folk generally, he had very strong , 
prejudices against horse-flesh, yet, when he saw me 
pour the peas in, he informed me that it looked un- 
commonly good. I said nothing, and gave him no 
hint that it was going to be eaten raw, but when it 
was all ready took the dish and put it down before the 
others, who were sitting outside the tent, and told 


them to help themselves. Those who had the godd 
fortune to see it will not easily forget the face that 
Balto assumed at this juncture. It first expressed 
the supremest astonishment and incredulity, and then, 
when he discovered that it was bitter earnest, there 
followed a look of disgust and contempt so intensely 
comical that it was quite impossible for us to restrain 
our laughter. Balto now told Eavna in Lappish how 
matters stood, and he, up to this time an indifferent 
spectator, now turned away with an expression of, if 
it were possible, still greater scorn. 

' The rest of us, not letting this spoil our appe- 
tites, fell to with vigour, and did full justice to this 
nourishing and wholesome dish, with which we were 
more than satisfied. The two Lapps, had they said 
anything at all, would have called us heathens, for, 
as they explained one day afterwards, it was only 
heathens and beasts of the field that ate meat raw. 
But at the time they said nothing, but maintained 
an attitude of dumb despair at the fate which had 
thrown them into the society of savages, who had, 
as they often used to say, " such strange ways, quite 
different from those of the Lapps." They could 
scarcely'' endure to see us eating. I could, of course, 
easily have cooked some of the meat for them, but 
we had to be sparing of the spirit. We were likely 
to want it all later on, and it was only two or three 


times during our wanderings in the floe-ice that we 
allowed ourselves the luxury of cooking anything. 
As a rule all our food was cold, and for drink we had 
either plain water, of which we had an abundance in 
larger and smaller pools on the floes, or else a mixture 
of water and preserved milk, which made a pleasant 
and refreshing beverage. This time the Lapps were 
treated to tinned beef instead of the horseflesh, and 
they seemed quite consoled for the first disappoint- 
ment, the beef being pronounced by Balto to be " good 
clean food." How common it is to see things in this 
life turned completely upside down by prejudice ! ' 

In connexion with the above I will quote an 
answer Balto gave one day after we reached home to 
some one who asked what his worst experience had 
been in the course of his travels. ' The worst thing,' 
said Balto, ' was once when we were drifting in the 
ice and were just being carried out into the Atlantic. 
I asked Nansen whether he thought we should get to 
land, and he said " Yes." Then I asked him what we 
should do if we did, and he said we should row 
northwards. I wanted to know what we should live 
on if we did not get over to the west coast, and he 
said we should have to shoot something. Then I 
asked how we should cook it when we got it, and 
Nansen answered that we should have to eat it raw, 
which made Balto very depressed.' 



' Towards evening we again advance a little, but, 
as the ice is not close-packed, and the swell is heavy, 
while the eddies and suction caused by the rolling of 
the floes are nasty for the boats, we soon resolve to 
camp for the night and wait for better times. There 
was a thick wet fog about us which soaked our clothes 


(,By E. Nielsen) 

through, and a biting 
^ north-west wind, a mes- 
sage from the "Inland 
ice," which I hoped presaged the opening of the floes. 
' July 25. — At half-past four I am woke by 
Kristiansen, the watch, calling in at the tent-door, 
" Nansen, there is a bear coming." I tell him to get 
a rifle out of the boat, slip my boots on meanwhile, 
and run out in a very airy costume. The bear was 


coming at full speed straight for the tent, but just as 
Kristiansen came back with the rifle he stopped, re- 
garded us for an instant, and suddenly turned tail. 
At that moment he was no doubt within range, but 
the rifle was in its case, and before I could get it out 
it was too late. It was very annoying, but the others 
at least had the pleasure of seeing a polar bear, 
which, they had long sighed for. 

' Balto was the only one who did not wake at the 
alarm in the night. In the morning he told us that 
during his watch, which came just before Kristian- 
sen's, he had been so afraid of bears that he had not 
dared to stir from the tent the whole time. He was 
much astonished and very incredulous when we told 
him there reaUy had been a bear about the place. 

' After breakfast we started off hauling again, but 
had to give up at the very next floe, because the 
swell was increasing. Ever since the day we were 
out among the breakers we have had more or less of 
this rolling, which besides keeps the ice packed and 
prevents our getting to land. 

' During the day the ice opens very much from 
time to time, but soon packs again. I dare not try 
to push on, as there is so much brash between the 
floes, and as there are no safe harbours of refuge for 
us to take to when the ice nips with the extreme 
suddenness which is its way now. The " feet " or 


projecting bases of the floes are at other times safe 
resorts, but now they are quite spoilt by these nasty 
eddies, which are most destructive to boats. 

' As we can 'find nothing better to do, we set to 
work to clean the sledge-runners of rust, so that they 
wiU move better. When this is done we get our 
dinner ready, which to-day consists of bean-soup, to 
which the remains of yesterday's raw meal and some 
more meat are added. During the cooking we take 
the latitude, which is 63°18'N., and the longitude, 
taken later in the afternoon, proves to be about 
40° 15' W. We are thus about eighteen ininutes or 
nearly twenty miles from land, and have drifted con- 
siderably further away than we were yesterday. Our 
hopes, which were then so bright, grow dim again, 
but a raven passing us to-day too brings us some 

' Dinner is at last ready and the soup poured out 
into the few - cups we possess, which are supple- 
mented by meat-tins. We faU to, and all — the Lapps 
even included — find the soup excellent. Then to his 
horror and despair Eavna suddenly discovers that 
the meat in the soup is not properly cooked. From 
this moment he refuses to touch another morsel, and 
sits idle with a melancholy look on his face which 
sets us all laughing. On such occasions his puckered 
little countenance is indescribably comical. Balto 


is not much better, though he manages to drink the 
soup, which he finds "first-rate," but the meat he 
gently deposits in a pool of water by his side, 
hoping that I shall not notice it. He now declares 
that he can say, in the words of the prophet Elias : 
" Lord, that which I have not eaten, that can I not 
eat." I tried to make him understand that Elias 
could certainly never have said anything of the kind, 
because he did eat what the Lord sent him, but that 
another man, known as the Apostle Peter, no doubt 
did say something like this, though it was in a 
vision, and the words were meant figuratively. Balto 
only shook his head doubtingly, and still maintained 
that none but heathens and beasts of the field would 
eat raw meat. We console the Lapps by giving 
them a meat-biscuit each. It is, of course, no use 
trying to teach old dogs to bark, and I really believe 
they would both have died of starvation rather than 
eat raw horseflesh. 

' To-day both Dietrichson and Kristiansen com- 
plain of irritation in the eyes, and I recommend 
every one to be careful to wear their glasses hence- 

' The ice remains about the same during the after- 
noon, while we drift fast southwards. In the course 
of the previous night we had been carried away 
from land, but we now seem to be drawing nearer it 

VOL. I. s 



again. In the afternoon we are right off Skjoldungen, 
an island well known from Graah's voyage. Since 
we have come south of Igdloluarsuk we have again 
had a glorious Alpine region in view, with sharp 
and lofty peaks, and wild fantastic forms, which in 

{From a pUotograpli) 

the evening and sunset glow are an especially fasci- 
nating sight. 

' The rolling is increasing in an astonishing way, 
though we are far from the edge of the ice. There 
must be a very heavy sea outside. 

' We begin to find it cold at night, and put all the 
tarpaulins and waterproofs we can spare under our 


sleeping-bags. We may just as well make things as 
pleasant as possible. 

' Wlien the rest go to bed I take the first watch 
in order to finish my sketches of the coast. 'This is 
very difficult, as we are so far south that the nights 
have already begun to darken considerably. My 
thoughts, however, soon desert pencil and sketch- 
book for contemplation of the night. 

' Perfect stillness reigns, not a breath of wind is 
stirring, and not even the growing swell can destroy 
the prevailing peace. The moon has risen large and 
round and with a strange ruddy glow up from the 
ice-fields to the east, and in the north there is still 
a narrow golden strip of evening light. Far away 
under the moon and above the ice is a gleaming 
band which shows the open sea ; inside this and all 
around is ice, and snow, and nothing but ice and 
snow ; behind lie the Greenland Alps with their 
marvellously beautiful peaks standing out against a 
dusky, dreamy sky. 

' It is strange indeed for a summer night, and far 
different from those scenes that we are wont to 
coniject with moonlight and summer dreams. Yet 
it has fascination of its own, which more southerly 
regions can scarcely rival. 

' On the ice before me stand the boats, the sledges, 
and the tent, in which my tired comrades are lying 

s 2 



in sound slumber. In. a pool of water by my side the 
moon shines calm and bright. All nature lies in 
an atmosphere of peace. So lately we had the day 
with all its burning eagerness and impatience, with 
its ponderings and restless designs upon the goal of 
our undertaking — and" now all is stillness and repose. 

(_By E. Nielsentfrom a sketch by the Author) 

Over all the moon sheds her soothing light, her 
beams floatipg through the silence of the polar 
night, and gently and softly drawing the soul in 
their train. The thoughts and powers of Nature 
herself seem to pervade aU space. One's surround- 
ings of place and time vanish, and before one appears 
the perspective of a past life instead. 


' And, when all comes to all, what is our failure 
to be reckoned I' Six men drifting southwards on 
a floe, to land eventually at a point other than- that 
contemplated. And either, in spite of this, we reach 
our goal — and in that case what reason have we to 
complain ? — or we do not reach it, and what then ? 
A vain hope has been disappointed, not for the first 
time in history-, and if we have no success this year 
we may have better luck the next. 

, ' July 26. — No change, except that we are nearer 
the edge of the ice and the open sea. The swell 
seems to have gone down considerably, and, though 
the sea is much nearer, we feel the rolling less than 

' We are drifting southwards along . the coast, 
apparently at great speed. 

' Por the time there is nothing for us to do, as the 
ice does not lie close enough to let us haul our boats 
and sledges while this rolling is going on, but is 
packed too close to let us row or punt our boats 

' We are kept in the tent by the rain. 
' We have to encourage the Lapps, who seem to 
lose their spirits more and more, because they think 
we shall end by being driven out into the Atlantic. 
We are sitting and talking of our prospects of 
reaching land, and we agree that in any case we 


shall be able to manage it at Cape Farewell. We 
calculate how much time this will leave us, and come 
to the conclusion that we shall still be able to work 
up the coast again and cross the ice. Some of the 
others maintain that even if we are too late this 
year it will be best to start northwards at onCe, get 
through the winter as we best can, and then cross 
over to the west coast in the spring. My opinion is 
that this will not be a very prudent proceeding, as it 
will be difficult for us to keep the provisions intact 
which we have brought with us for the crossing. 
Dietrichson thinks that this will be the only course 
open to us, as he considers a return entirely out of 
the question, and, as he says, " We shall risk nothing 
but our lives, anyway." 

' While this discussion is going on, Balto says to 
me : " Don't talk about ail this, JSTansen ; we shall 
never get to land. We shall be driven out into the 
Atlantic, and I only pray to my God to let me die a 
repentant sinner, so that I may go to heaven. I have 
done so much wrong in my life, but regret it bitterly 
now, as I am afraid I shall not be saved." I then 
asked him if he did not think it necessary to repent 
of his sins, even if he were not on the point of 
death. He said that he had no doubt one ought, 
but there was not so much hurry about it in that 
case. However, if he came out of this alive, he 


would really try and lead a better life. This seemed 
to me a naive confession of a peculiar faith, a faith 
which is, however, probably not uncommon in our 
society. I then asked him if, in case he reached his 
home again, he would give up drinking. He said he 
thought he would, or at any rate he would drink very 
little. It was this cursed drink, he told me, that was 
the cause of his being here in the ice. I asked 
how that was, and he -said that he was drunk when 
he met a certain X., who asked him whether he 
would join the Greenland expedition. He was then 
in high spirits, aiid quite thought he was equal to 
anything of the kind. 

' But next morning when he woke up sober, and 
remembered what he had said, he repented bitterly. 
He thought then that it was too late to undo it aU, 
but he would now give any amount of money not to 
have come with us at all. Poor fellow ! I consoled 
him and Eavna as well as I could, though I must 
freely confess that their despondency and cowardice 
often caused me considerable annoyance. But as a 
matter of fact the poor fellows did not enter into the 
spirit of the undertaking at all. I do not feel sure 
whether my consolation was of much avail, but I 
have reason to think so. They used often to come to 
me after this, and appeared relieved when I gave them 
any information about the continent of Greenland, 


and the drift of the ice, things of which they seemed 
to have Uttle or no comprehension. 

' Otherwise our spirits are excellent, and we are 
really comfortable as we sit here in the tent. One 
or two of us are reading, others writing their diaries, 
Balto is mending shoes, and Eavna, as usual, and 
as he prefers, is doing nothing. Nevertheless, our 
prospect of soon being carried out to sea again can- 
not be called entirely pleasant. 

' In the afternoon it clears a little, the rain holds 
up, and we can see land, which looks quite as near 
as it did before. 

' A little later we determine to push in through 
the ice. It is dangerous work, but we must make 
the attempt, as we are being carried towards the open 
sea at great speed. We make a good deal of way 
inwards, though we are in constant risk of getting 
our boats crushed. We have to keep all our wits 
about us if we are to get the boats into shelter when 
the ice packs. One time we take refuge at the very 
last moment on a thin little floe, which splits into 
several pieces under the pressure, though the frag- 
ment on which we stand remains intact. 

' As the ice continues packed, we begin hauling, 
though this is no easy matter while this rolling goes 
on. The floes at one moment separate, at another 
are jammed together, audit is very difficult to get the 



sledges safely from one to the otlier without losing 
them in the sea. Often we have to wait a long time 
before we can get back and fetch the rest of the train 
from the floe on which we have left it. By moving 
cautiously, however, we manage to push on at a fair 
pace. But it is all of little use. It serves to give 
us exercise, which is an important thing, but other- 
wise our work does little good. The sea works faster 
than we do, and there is every probability of our 

^^ " 




^^ f 

*> /,- .v^ 



(£!/ A. Bloch, from a sketch by the Author) 

being carried out into the breakers again. Well, so 
let it be ; but we must first find a good ship to carry 
us. We set about carefully surveying all the floes 
round us, and we now understand pretty well what 
the points of a good floe are. At last we find one, 
of solid blue ice, thick, but not large, and in shape 
something like a ship, so that it will ride the seas 
well, and without breaking across. It has high 
edges, too, which will keep the sea from breaking 
over it, and at the same time there is one lower place 


which will let us launch our boats without much 
■difficulty. It is without comparison the best floe we 
have been on as yet, and on it we propose, if we are 
driven out, to remain as long as we can stick to it, 
however furiously the breakers rage around us. 

' Of course we had as usual made sure, before we 
decided upon this floe, that there were pools of water 
upon it. Such there are indeed on most of these 
floes, for the snow which covers the ice melts and 
provides the most excellent drinking-water, which 
collects in pools of larger or smaller size. 

' Nevertheless we looked very foolish this time 
when we were filling our boiling-pot, and, happening 
to taste the water, found it was brackish. It had 
not struck us that most of the snow was now melted 
away, and that our water came from the under- 
lying salt-water ice. However, on examining the 
highest points of the floe, where the snow still 
remained, we found plenty of good water. 

' This evening we had an excellent cup of coffee 
and were all in high spirits. If anyone could have 
put his head into our comfortable tent and seen us 
encamped round our singing coffee-pot and care- 
lessly talking about all sorts of trifles, it would never 
have struck him that these were men who were on 
the point of engaging in a struggle with ice, sea, and 
breakers, which was not likely to be altogether 


a joke. But let us enjoy tlie moment, look just so 
far in front of us as is necessary, and for the rest 
leave the day to attend to its own evil. 

' We are now just off the mountains of Tingmiar- 
miut. Along the whole of this magnificent coast of 
East Greenland one group of wild Alpine peaks 
succeeds the other, each more beautiful than the 
last. Eeally it is not so bad after all to lie drifting 
here in the ice. We see more of the coast and more 
of the beauties of nature altogether than we should 
have otherwise. 

' To-night it is fine, still, and cold, with a bright 
moon, as it was yesterday. 

' It must be that coffee which is making me sit 
out here and talk nonsense, instead of creeping into 
my sleeping-bag as I ought, in order to "gather 
strength for the exertions of to-morrow. Good- 
night ! 

' July 27. — Did not go to bed after all till well 
into the morning. There is no doubt it was a clear 
case of coffee-poisoning. 

' Walked about talking to Sverdrup through his 
watch and afterwards, recalling our school-days. 
Life and the "v^orld seem so strangely distant to us as 
we drift in the ice up here. 

' July 28. — Yesterday we did nothing, and the 
same is the case to-day. Our fear of being driven 


out into tlie breakers again was by no means ground- 
less. Yesterday we were within mucii less than half a 
mile, and yet we almost wished to go, as by putting 
out to sea we should bring this life in the ice to an 
end. The sea was moderate and the wind fair, and 
we might thus have reached Cape Farewell within 
twenty-four hours. When there we should certainly 
have been able to push through the ice and get to 
land. However, we were not to go to sea after all. 
After we had drifted along the ice at its outer edge 
for a time, we began to move inwards in a field of 
floes, which seemed to extend away south. The 
ice-belt is here very narrow, and on taking our 
bearings upon several points on the coast we found 
that, though at the outer edge of the ice, we were 
not more than eighteen miles from land at Mogens 
Heinesens Fjord. 

' The weather, which was yesterday bitterly cold 
with a wintry and clouded sky, is bright again 
to-day. The sun is shining warm and encouragingly 
down upon us. The " Inland ice " north and south of 
Karra akungnak lies stretched before us pure and 
white, looking to the eye a level and practicable 
plain, with rows of crags peeping through the ice — 
the so-called " nunataks " — away behind, more of 
them, by the way, than are marked on Holm's map. 
The expanse of snow beckons and entices us far into 


the unknown interior. Ah, well ! we too shall have 
our day.' 

With this sanguine expression of confidence, 
which was perhaps remarkable considering the num- 
ber of times we had been disappointed, my diary for 
this section of our journey curiously enough con- 
cludes. The next entry is dated July 31, and thus 
begins : — 

' A strange dijQference between our surroundings 
now and those when I last wrote ! Then they were 
ice, solitude, and the roaring of the sea, now they 
are barking dogs, numbers of native Greenlanders, 
boats, tents, and the litter of an encampment — in short, 
life, activity, and summer, and, above all, the rocky 
soil of Greenland beneath our feet.' 

These lines were written as we were leaving the 
first Eskimo encampment we had come to, but before 
I continue from this point I had better explain how 
we managed to get so far. 

On the evening of July 28, after having finished 
the entry in my diary which I have quoted above, we 
drifted into a fog which concealed the land from us. 
In the course of the afternoon the ice had several 
times opened considerably, though we were very 
near its outer edge, where one would have expected 
the swell to keep it packed close. It had not, however, 
opened to such an ext^t that we could safely take 


the boats inwards, because of the rolling. But as 
some of us were taking the ordinary evening walk 
before turning in, we were struck by the way in 
which the floes were separating. It looked to us as 
if the ice were opening even out seawards, which was 
an extremely unusual sight. We felt we really ought 
to set to work, but we were tired and sleepy, and no 
one seemed at all inclined for such a proceeding. To 
tell the truth too, I wafe now quite tired of being 
disappointed in the way we had been, and was very 
strongly disposed to put straight out to sea. We 
had now so often worked inwards through open ice, 
and the only result of all our labour had been to get 
driven out to sea again. This time, thought I, we 
will see what happens if we sit idle instead of work- 
ing. And so we crept into our bags, though leaving 
the usual man on watch with orders to call us out in 
case the ice opened still more. 

In the night the fog thickened and nothing was 
to be seen of our surroundings. Sverdrup's watch 
came on towards morning. He told us afterwards- 
that as he walked up and down in the fog and after a 
time looked at the compass, it struck him that he 
must have gone clean out of his wits. Either he or 
the instrument must have gone mad, for the black 
end of the needle was pointing to what he held to be 
south. For if he looked along the needle with the 


black end away from him he had the breakers on hia 
left. But if the end of the needle pointed to the 
north,, as it ought, then the breakers must be on the 
west or land side. This could not be, so he must, 
suppose that either he or the needle had gone crazy, 
and, as this is not a weakness to which compasses are- 
liable, therefore the fault must lie with- him, though 
it was a state of things which he had certainty never 
contemplated. Subsequently the phenomenon was 
explained in a somewhat different way, for the 
breakers he had heard proved to be the sea washing- 
the shore. 

In the morning T happened to be lying awake for 
a time. It was now Eavna who had the watch, and. 
as usual, he had kept at it for four hours instead of 
two. I lay for some time watching with amusement 
his bearded little face as it peeped through the open- 
ing into the tent. At first I thought he was wondering 
whether his two hours were not up and he might 
wake Kristiansen, who was to follow him. But 
then it struck me that to-day there was a peculiar, 
uneasy expression in this face, which was not at all 
familiar. So at last • I said : — ' Well, Eavna, can 
you see land ? ' And he answered eagerly in his 
queer, naive way : — ' Yes, yes, land too near.' Both 
the Lapps habitually used altfor, 'too,' instead of 
meget, ' very.' I jumped out of the bag and from the 


tent-door saw land much nearer than we had ever 
had it before. The floes were scattered, ,and I could 
see open water along the shore. Eavna was indeed 
right ; land was much too near for us to be lying 
idly in our bags. So I turned the others out, and 
it. was not long before we had dressed and break- 
fasted. The boats were launched and loaded, and 
w€ were soon ready. Before we left this floe, which 
had carried us so well and was in all probability to 
be our last, I went up on to its highest point to 
choose our best course for land. Our surroundings 
were changed indeed. The whole field of ice seemed 
to have been carried away from land and outwards 
to the south-east. I could see nothing but ice in 
that direction, and there was that whiteness in 
the air above it which betokens large fields, 
Towards the south, on the contrary, and along the 
shore there seemed to be nothing but open water. 
We were not far from the edge of this water, and it 
stretched northwards also for some way along the 
coast, ending at a point where the ice seemed to he 
close into the land. We were therefore now on the 
inner edge of the ice-belt, and the outer edge was 
not distinctly visible from where I stood. It is 
strange how quickly one's fate changes. It was 
quite plain that we should now soon be on shore, 
and, had this been told us yesterday, not one of 


US -would have allowed the possibility of such a 

So off we started and pushed quickly landwards. 
The water was open enough for us to row pretty well 
the whole way, there being only two or three places 
where we had to force a passage. 

Some hours later we were through the ice. The 
feehngs that possessed us as we took our boats by 
the last floe and saw the smooth, open water stretch- 
ing away in front of us up to the very shore are 
scarcely to be described in words. We felt as if we 
had escaped from a long and weary imprisonment 
and now all at once saw a bright and hopeful future 
lying before us. Life was indeed bright and hopeful 
now, for when can it be brighter than when one sees 
the attainment of one's wishes possible, when un- 
certainty at last begins to pass into certainty ? It is 
like the tremulous joy which comes with the breaking 
day, and when is not the dawn fairer and brighter 
than the fuU noontide ? 

VOL. I. 




At last, then, we had overcome our first difficulty. 
We had reached that east coast of Greenland which 
so, many before us had sought -in vain, though the 
attempt had cost us much valuable time and had 
brought us far to the south of the point at which we 
had hoped to land. 

But before we go farther and set out upon the 
next stage of our journey, it will be as well to sketch 
the history of earlier attempts at the task which we 
had just accomplished, and to enumerate the ex- 
plorers whose success or failure had in a greater or 
less degree helped to prepare the way for us. 

The east coast of Greenland has, as many readers 
will know, been seldom visited. Most of those who 
have attempted to land have been stopped by the 
floe-ice which is drifted down by the polar current, 
and for the greater part of the year forms a compact 
belt of varying width along the whole shore. 


The -difficult navigation of this coast was well 
known to the old Scandinavians, as is plainly shown 
by the numerous accounts in the Sagas of voyages 
to Greenland and of wrecks in the belt of floes. 

Now and again some of these adventurous sailors 

succeeded in actually reaching land. Thus the 

' Floamannasaga,' the manuscript of which 


Orrabeins- dates from about 1400, tells us that an Ice- 

fostre, 998 

lander, Thorgils Orrabeinsfostre by name, lost 
his ship at a northerly point of the coast of East 
Greenland in the middle of October 998, in an inlet 
which had sandy shores. It is significant that this is 
said to have happened in the autumn, which is in 
fact the only time when the coast is sufficiently free 
of ice to allow a ship to go ashore there. 

We are told with a great deal of circumstance 
and detail how this same Thorgils, who had his wife 
and whole household with him, for three winters and 
three summers struggled fOr bare life on this inhos- 
pitable coast ; how he fought his way southwards, 
and, after undergoing the most incredible hard- 
ships,, finally brought a small remnant of his party 
round the southern point of the continent and 
reached the first Scandinavian colony on the western 

There is much in this account which is so mar- 
vellous, and even impossible, that it miist cast a 

T 2 


doubt on the genuineness of the whole narrative. 
But at the same time the description of the coast 
along which Thorgils passed, and of the various 
natural phenomena which he found there, corre- 
sponds so closely with the real condition of things 
that it is scarcely reasonable to regard the whole 
story as a mere fiction, since it shows at least that the 
narrator must have had a personal and extensive 
acquaintance with the coast which he describes. 

' Kongespeilet ' too, the old Norse treatise to which 
I have already referred in connexion with the history 
of ' ski,' makes it quite plain that our ancestors must 
have been thoroughly well acquainted with the East 
Greenland coast, and its accurate and particular 
description of the floes, the icebergs, and polar 
current would' do credit to a geographer of the 
present day. It tells us how folk who have been 
wrecked in the ice-belt have saved themselves by 
travelling over the floes for four or five days to land, 
and it proves that our party cannot claim to be the 
first which has reached shore by dragging its boats 
over the drifting ice. 

Soon after this remarkable treatise was written, 
Greenland was once more cut ofi" from the outer 
world, and it was some two hundred years or more 
before the connexion was opened again. A number 
of attempts were then made to reach the east coast. 


the most important of which, shall here be shortly- 

It is not certain whether any expedition was sent 

out before 1579 for the purpose of rediscovering 

Greenland. A proclamation of King Prede- 

Aaiborg rick II. to the Greenlanders, of April 12, 

(?), 1568 

1568, shows that a certain Eiistiern Aalborg 
was to have been despatched thither v/ith one ship 
in that year, but nothing more is known of the un- 
dertaking. Negotiations in the same direction were 
afterwards conducted by the same king with a Eus- 
sian ship's captain, Paul Mchetz, who claimed to 
know the route to Greenland, but no result seems to 
have been arrived at. 

Under earlier kings of Denmark and Norway the 
recovery of the lost Norwegian province had been 
often contemplated and much discussed. In the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, for instance, 
under Christian II., Archbishop Valkendorf deter- 
mined to bring Greenland within the see of Trond- 
hjem, but his project led to nothing. 

In 1579 James AUday, an Englishman, was put 
in command of an expedition consisting of two ships, 
AUday, ^^^ ^^® instructed to visit Greenland for the 
■^^^^ purpose of bringing that country once more 
under its lawful sovereign. 

On August 26 they sighted the east coast, pro- 


bably a little way to the north of Cape Dan, and then 
sailed to the south-west along the shore, but could 
not land on account of the ice. On August 29, 
however, they seem to have been within a mile or 
two of land, but could get no nearer, and had 
ultimately to put out to sea again. After this they 
saw no more of the coast, and were in the end forced 
by bad weather to make for home again. It seems 
that few expeditions up to the year 1883 have 
managed to approach the coast from the open sea 
so nearly as the first one. It is just at the end of 
August, as a rule, that Cape Dan becomes tolerably 
free of ice, though we found it to be so even before 
the middle of the month. 

AUday, however, thought that he was too late in 
the season, and in the following year a new expedi- 
AUday (?) ^^'"'■'^ ^^^ S°* ready and put in his charge. 
1580 rpj^j^g expedition seems to have led to nothing, 

as there is no further mention of it. 

In 1-581 Mogens Heinesson, the adventurous hero 
of the Faroe Islands, fitted out a ship at his own cost 
for the purpose of recovering the forgotten 

Hemes- provuice. But, bold and skilful sailor as he 

son, 1581 

was, he could only come within sight of 
the shore, and failed, owing to the ice, to effect a 

The expeditions which were sent out in 1605 


under the Scotchman John Cunningham, who had 
the chief command, the Enghshman James Hall, 

Cunning- ^^^^^ pi^o*' ^^^ Jo^"- Knight, together with 
ham, 1605 ^^^ jy^^^ Godske Lindenow, and that of 1606, 
of which Lindenow had the chief command, seem, aS 
far as we can judge from the scanty records extant,. 
Lindenow ^^ ^^rvQ made no attempt to land on the east 
^^°^ coast. The view that Lindenow landed at 

some point at the south of the east coast on the 
first of these voyages seems to me to be scarcely, 

On the west coast, on the other hand, both these 
expeditions landed. They brought back, however, 
very little in comparison with what had been expected 
of them, for the reason that, as was generally sup- 
posed, they had not found the flourishing ' Oster- 
bygd,' and thither the attention of explorers was 
now chiefly directed.^ 

' The first expeditions which made their way to the east coast were 
sent out only for the purpose of rediscovering G-reenland, but gradually, 
as no Scandinavians could be found upon the west coast, the search was 
directed specially to the particular colony known as ' Osterbygden,' or 
the ' Eastern Settlement,' which had not yet been discovered, and 
which, it was thought, must necessarily lie on the southern point of the- 
peninsula or on its eastern side. 

In his instructions to the expedition of 1607, King Christian IV. sets 
forth that Eriksfjord, one of the ' Osterbygd ' fjords, ' lies to the. south- 
west of the country between the 60th and 61st parallels, but over against 
the eastern side.' ' The expedition was ordered to make for the south- 
eastern point of the land, and, after the ' Osterbygd ' had been found, 
to work northwards along the east coast for the purpose of examin- 
ing it. 


In 1607 another expedition was despatclied from 
Denmark under the Holsteiner, Carsten Eichardsen, 
Biohard- '^'^^^ James Hall as pilot, to find this lost 
sen, 1607 gQ^Q^y Qq y^j.g were the promoters of this 

undertaking of success, that they even had Ice- 
landers and Norwegians on board, who were to serve 
as interpreters when the descendants of the old Nor- 
wegian settlers were found. 

On June 8 the coast seems to have been sighted 
in lat. 59° N., but the landing was prevented by the 
ice. The expedition then sailed northwards, and 
tried again and again to force a passage through the 
floes. A last desperate attempt was made between 
lat. 63° and 64° N. on July 1, but as this also failed, 
the course- was set for home. 

In 1652, 1653 and 1654, three expeditions were 
fitted out by the Dane, Henrik Moller, and put in 
charge of a foreigner, probably a Dutchman, David 
Danell or de Nelle. 

In 1652 Danell sighted the east coast,-^ probably 
near Cape Dan, on June 2, but neither on that nor 
the following days could he land on account of the 
ice, which lay from twenty to thirty miles out to sea. 
On June 9 they tried to find ' a harbour,' which must 

' As the earlier expeditions to the east coast had faUed, Danell took 
a more northerly course in the hope of hitting upon the old Scandinavian 
route known as ' Eriksstevne,' which lay due west from Iceland. 


have been to the south of Cape Dan, but there was 
Daneii ^^'^ miles of ice in ' the, harbour ' and along 
^^^^ the shore. Thereupon they took out a boat 

and attempted to get across, but the ice began ' to 
break,' and ' the enterprise had gone near to bring 
them all to perplexity.' Then they sailed south- 
wards ; but as they found all approaches to the shore 
blocked by the ice, they rounded Cape Farewell 
about the middle of June and went on to the west 

In his diaries Danell describes a number of 
islands which lay fifteen or twenty miles from land 
to the south of Cape Dan ; one of them he even names 
'The White Saddle,' and another ' The Mastless Ship.' 
From his description these were evidently icebergs, 
which for want of experience he had mistaken for 

On his return from the voyage towards the end 
of June, Danell made one more attempt to reach the 
east coast, and this time, as it seems, he came very 
near to success. On July 23 they found themselves 
ofi" the mouth of a fjord or inlet which was free of 
ice, and ' if the night had not fallen so suddenly upon 
them they would have sailed into this fjord.' Farther 
north again, at lat. 63° N., they came within five miles 
of land, and saw what Danell caUs ' the solid ice.' 
His descriptions, on the whole, show that at that time 


the condition of the ice in June and July was just 
the same as it is to-day. 

In June of the next year, 1653, Danell again 
cruised along the east coast to Cape Farewell, but 
Danell, ^^^ everywhere prevented by the ice from 
apj)roaching land. On June 19, in lat. 
64° K, he supposes himself to have seen the Her- 
julfsn^s of the old Norsemen, where the ice stretched 
twenty or twenty-five miles out to sea.-^ Then he 
proceeded to the west coast, and it is not known 
whether he made any attempt upon the east, side on 
his way back in the beginning of August. We are 
only told that, as the east coast was blocked by ice, 
he resolved to go to Iceland. 

In 1654 Danell was once more off the east coast, 
but this time it was a long -w&j to the south, and it 
Danell scems probable that he was only passing by 
on his way to the west. Yery little is known 
about the voyage, except that off Godthaabsfjord 
they saw ' a mermaid with streaming hair and ex- 
ceeding lovely.' 

In 1670 a ship's captain, named Otto Axelsen,- 
was sent out by the King of Denmark to recover the 

^ It is not easy to see what induced Danell to give this position to 
HerJTilfsnses. His error may, to some extent, have misled Theodor 
Thorlacius, who, by deliberately putting ' Osterbygden ' on the east 
coast of Greenland in his map of 1668 or 1669, helped to establish a 
mistake which led people astray for many years to come. 


old province of Greenland. He returned the same 
year, but there is no record of his voyage. 


1670 and ISText year he was sent affain, but this time 

1671 ^ , 

he did not return. We can only suppose 

that his vessel must have been crushed in the ice in 
an attempt to reach the east coast. 

A considerable interval followed without any 
fresh attempts ; but early in the next century the 
Danes, together with the Norwegian missionary Hans 
Egede, settled upon the west coast of Greenland. 
They had not even yet found any descendants of the 
old colonists, but they still had hopes of doing so on 
the east coast, where they now were convinced that 
the ' Osterbygd ' must have been, Egede himself, as 
I shall subsequently relate, even made an attempt to 
work up along shore in an Eskimo boat. 

A report dated August 29, 1724,'- shows that the 
Bergen company which sent Egede out had given 
Pffister Captain Hans Fsester of the ' Egte Sophia,' 
one of their own vessels, orders ' to seek and 
examine the east side of the country of Greenland ; 
but as this coast, from 66-|° to 60°, was everywhere 
blocked by ice, the scheme has not succeeded as well 
as had been wished and hoped for.' On May 12 the, 
vessel reached the coast of Greenland, and for three 

' Meddelelser om Gronland, vol. ix. pp. 28, 29 (Copenliagen, 


months seems to have cruised along the edge of the 
ice from lat. 66° 30' to 60° 28' N., and to have been 
distant from the shore ' sometimes five miles, some- 
times ten, sometimes fifteen, sometimes twenty, and 
sometimes twenty-five, but to have found no approach 
or opening.' 

It was to find this same ' Osterbygd ' too that, 
De Lowe- ^^ ^^^ proposal of Hans Egede's son Paul, 
^°™' "^^ two vessels were fitted out in 1786 and 
put in charge of ' Captain-Lieutenant ' Paul de 

On July 8 of this year the expedition sighted land 
between lat. 65° and 66° N., a white rocky coast, 
which was in view all that day and the morning of 
the next. Lowenorn, however, seems to have been 
frightened by the drifting floes and withdrew from 
' Greenland's icy coast,' some days later returning to 
Iceland, where he lay at anchor for some time in 
Dyrafjord, This was the only time he came within 
sight of the coast. On July 23 he left Dyrafjord 
again. ; but as he reached the pack-ice the very next 
day, he seems to have abandoned all hope at once, and 
presently returned home to Denmark with the larger 
of his two vessels. Though this ship had previously 
been a whaler, and was therefore built for these very 
seas, Lowenorn managed to see less of the east coast 
than many of his predecessors. He seems to have 


had no partiality for tlie pack-ice, but it may be 
urged in his excuse that as a naval officer he had 
had no experience in this kind of navigation. 

When he went home for good, however, he left 
his smaller vessel, a sloop named ' Den nye Prove,' 
in charge of Second-Lieutenant Christian Thestrup 
Egede, a son of Bishop Paul Egede, to make further 
attempts upon the east coast. 

What Lowenorn wanted in the way of courage 

and enterprise, Egede seems to have possessed to the 

full, and with all the enthusiasm of youth 
0. T. ■ . 

Egede, he sct himself to realise the dream of his 


father, the rediscovery of the lost settlement. 
On August 8, the very day on which Lowenorn sailed 
for home, he put to sea with his little vessel to naake 
one more serious attempt to reach the shore. 

On August 16 he sighted some point in all pro- 
bability to the north of Cape Dan, but could not 
land on account of the ice, which extended some 
thirty miles out to sea. On August 20 they were 
farther south and off the mouth of some broad inlet, 
which was no doubt Sermilikfjord, but here again 
they were prevented by ice from getting within less 
than twelve miles of land. A series of storms, which 
at last forced them to return to Iceland, put an end 
to their attempts for the season. 

In 1787, however, Egede and Eothe, his second 


in command, made no less than six attempts upon 

this inaccessible coast; but, thffugh they had the 

company of another vessel, they only managed. 

Egede and 

Eothe, to sight land on one occasion. This was on 

1787 ° 

May 17 and 18, when they came within 
twenty-five or thirty miles of shore somewhat to the 
north of Cape Dan. 

Their last try was in the latter half of September. 
It must seem strange to us, with our present know- 
ledge of the ways of the ice, that they failed to land 
so late in the season, but the reason no doubt was. 
that they were too far to the north and east, and 
that they were to some extent hindered by storms 
and foggy weather. 

Nearly fifty years later, or in 1833,^ Lieutenant de 

Blosseville, a French naval officer, on July 28 and 

29, sighted the east coast between lat. 68°' 

De Bios- ^ 

Seville, and 69° N., but was prevented from landing 

1833 . 

by the ice, and returned to Iceland at once 
to make good some damage which his ship had suf- 
fered. On August 5 he put to sea again, but nothing 
has been heard of him since. 

In 1859 the American, Colonel Schaffner, sailed 

^ As we are here only concerned with the southern part of the east 
coast, I say nothing of the various explorers who have visited th& 
northern part, suph as Scoresby, Sabine and Clavering in 1822 and 


to Greenland in the bart ' Wyman ' to inquire into 
the practicabihty of carrying a telegraph cable 
Sohaffner f^o™^ Europe to America over. Greenland. 
^^^^ On October 10 he left Julianehaab and sailed 
•round Cape Farewell and up the east coast to Lin- 
denow's Pjord in lat. 60° 25' N. He found ' not so 
much as a hand's breadth of ice,' which is not re- 
markable, as at this time of the year the coast is 
generally quite free. However, he was hindered from 
landing or anchoring by a storm from the north, 
which drove the vessel out to sea. 

On July 18, 1860, with the same object in view, Sir 
Leopold McClintock with the ' Bulldog' arrived oiF the 
Mcciin- coast by Cape WaUoe in lat. 60° 34' N., but 
*°° ' ^ could not land on account of the ice. He then 
went round to the west coast, and thence to America. 
After calling at Julianehaab, on his way home he 
made one more attempt on the east coast, and came 
within some five miles of land in lat. 60° 2' JST. by 
Prince Christian's Sound. Here he found very little 
ice, but the same night a violent storm sprang up, 
which lasted three days and carried the 'Bulldog' 

On September 11 of the same year (1860), Colonel 
Young, SchaiFner, this time on board the ' Pox,' 
^^®° which was under the command of the Arctic 
explorer Sir Allen Young, came again to the east coast 


of Greenland. The 'Fox' reached the coast near 
Cape Bille in lat. 62° N. or thereabouts, and, as I learn 
from Sir Allen Young, they found so little ice here that 
for that matter they could have landed easily, but 
they seem not to have been within ten miles of shore. 
On September 12, on the contrary, they found the ice 
at lat. 61° 54' N. lying close inshore and tightly 
packed. On September 13 again they were within 
some three or four miles of land off Omenarsuk, but 
here also the ice lay too close to afford an opening. 
The darkness of the air over Lindenow's Fjord led 
Sir Allen Young to suppose that they might have 
found open water and anchorage under the shore. 
As a storm, however, sprang up in the evening he 
put to sea again and made no further attempt upon 
the east coast. 

In 1863 two iron steamships, the ' Baron Hambro ' 
and the ' Caroline,' were sent out on behalf of an 
Taylor, English house of business with the object of 
^^ ^ founding a trading-station on the east coast. 

The expedition, which was in charge of the English 
traveller Taylor, found the coast blocked by ice, into 
which they dared not take their iron vessels. 

In 1865 Taylor came again with the 'Erik 
Taylor Eaude,' a strong wooden vessel specially 
^^^^ built for the ice. This time also he found 
the coast at about lat. 63° JST. completely blocked. 


and, in spite of vigorous efforts, he failed to break 
through, the ice-belt. 

In 1879 the schooner ' Ingolf,' of the Danish 
Navy, under Captain A. Mourier and Lieutenant 
Mourier Waudcl, cruised down the coast. They were 
^^^^ in lat. 69° N. on July 6, and in the neigh- 
bourhood of Cape Dan on July 10. Off Ingolfsfjeld 
they were within about twenty miles of shore, but 
could not land. After this expedition Captain Mou- 
rier came to the conclusion that it was altogether 
impossible to reach the east coast from the sea.-' The 
incorrectness of this conclusion was, however, proved 
four years later. 

In 1882, as I have abeady said, I was off this 

coast on board the ^ealer ' Viking.' We were caught 

in the ice on June 25, between lat. 66° and 

The ' Vi- 
king,' 67° N., and drifted landwards till on July 7 


in lat. 66° 50' N. and long. 32° 35' W. we 
believed ourselves to be within some twenty-five 
miles of shore. After this we drifted gently in a 
south-westerly direction, and finally came out of the 
ice on July 17.^ 

In 1883 Baron Nordenskiold made two attempts 

' Kapt. A. Mourier : Orlogsskonnerten ' Ingolfs ' Expedition i 
Bamncurhsstrcedet i 1879. In Geografisk Tidakrift, vol. iv. p. 59 
(Copenhagen, 1880). 

^ Lcmgs Gronlcmds Ostlcyst. In Geografish Tidshrift, vol. vii. 
pp. 76-79 (Copenhagen, 1884). 

VOL. I. U 

ago ACROSS Greenland 

to reach the east coast with the iron steamship 

' Sofia.' On June 12 he sighted Cape Dan, but being 

unable to land changed his course and 


skioid, cruised along the coast southwards. The 

1883 ° 

whole way down to Cape Farewell, which 
was reached on June 15, the shore was blocked by ice. 
Nordenskiold therefore went round to the west coast, 
where he made his second expedition to the ' Inland 
ice,' which will be described in a later chapter. 

On August 30 he passed Cape Farewell again on 
his way back, and on September 1 he found to the 
south of lat. 62° N. a great field of closely packed 
ice, which stretched far out to sea from the glacier 
Puisortok to a distance of thirty or thirty-five miles. 
To the south of this great tongue of ice there seemed 
to be open water close under the shore. When they 
came nearer, however, they found a belt of floes, 
though it was only six or seven miles broad. This 
Nordenskiold thought they could have pushed 
through without any very great difficulty, but, ,as 
the coast here was supposed to be uninhabited, he 
did not make the attempt. 

It would se.em that the general aspect of the ice 
here — a long tongue extending far out to sea and a 
narrow belt along the coast to the south — was remark- 
ably like what we found afterwards ^ at about the 

' See pp. 272 and 310. 


same point, or, more correctly, a little farther south. 
At this part of the coast there must therefore be, at 
least at times, some strange irregularity in the course 
of the current. 

A little to the north of lat. 62° JST. there was a 
long inlet going far into the ice towards shore, but 
at the head of this the way was again blocked 
by a narrow belt. As Nordenskiold wished to land 
farther north, he did not try to force his way 
through the belt,, though he considered that he 
could have done so without' any particular diffi- 

At last, on September 4, Nordenskiold succeeded 
in achieving what so many before him had attempted 
to do in vain, and the ' Sofia ' was brought safely in 
to land after passing through what seems to have 
been comparatively open ice. This was just to the 
west of Cape Dan, and the ship was anchored in a 
bay, which was thereupon named 'Konung Oscars 
' Hamn.' On this day and the following morning the 
party were on shore, where they made various col- 
lections and observations for scientific purposes. 
Numerous and quite recent traces of the natives were 
found, though no individuals were seen, which was 
very remarkable, seeing that the party landed, as we 
now know, in the middle of an inhabited section of 
the coast. Nor apparently was anything of the ex- 

V 2 


pedition seen by the Eskimo, though they very soon 
found and appropriated one token which recorded 
this mysterious descent upon their coasts. This was 
an empty beer-bottle from the Carlsberg Brewery at 
Copenhagen, which the Greenlanders afterwards 
showed to Captain Holm as something exceeding 
strange and supernatural. To the few drops of 
yeUow hquid which still remained in the bottom of 
the bottle qualities of divine power seeiji to have 
been ascribed. 

On September 5, or the day after the landing at 
Konung Oscars Hamn, the ' Sofia ' put to sea again 
in the hope of reaching the coast to the north of 
Cape Dan. This attempt, however, was not success- 
ful, and, owing to want of coal, the expedition was 
now forced to return. 

In 1884 things were ususually favourable on the 
east coast of Greenland, and in the first half of July, 
j^forwe- ^^ ^ learn from trustworthy sources, many 
Safers, of ^^^ Norwegian sealers were very close to* 
land in lat. 67° N. or thereabouts. One of 
them indeed, the ' Stserkodder ' under Captain A. 
Krefting, took bladder-nose seal close under the 
shore, which, according to the captain's account, he 
could easily have reached had it been in the interest 
of his ship. 

The last of the long series of attempts upon this 


coast is, as the writer hopes, already well known to 
the reader, and there is no further necessity for .him 
to draw attention to its history.^ 

There are, however, in connexion with the 
Greenland ice-belt, two other occurrences which I 
can scarcely pass over in my enumeration, though 
they do not strictly belong to the series of attempts 
to reach the shore. But they are nevertheless in 
some way the forerunners of our voyage in the floe- 
ice, though in the matter of hardship and suffering 
we went through ~ nothing that can for a moment be 
compared with the experiences of these our prede- 

The year 1777 must be a date branded upon the 
memory of aU who have studied the history of Arctic 
Tragedy research, which among all its cruel records 
of .1777 j^g^g ^^ such tale of wholesale misery as this 
one year produced. 

It was, on the whole, a very bad season for navi- 
gation on the Greenland coasts ; and at midsummer, 
or rather between June 24 and 28, a whole fleet of 
whalers of various nationalities, and twenty-seven 

' It is possible that the ooast has been reached by more people than 
we know anything of. There is indeed a story current in Iceland that 
some fishing- vessels in 1756 anchored on the east coast of Greenland 
at some point north-west of Vestfirdir in Iceland. This legend, how- 
ever, is not very trustworthy. (See GeografisJe Tidskrift, vol. vii. pp. 
117 and 176.) 


or twenty-eight in number,^ were caught fast in the 
ice between lat. 74° and 75° N.^ Some of these ships 
worked free again in the course of the following 
months, but twelve remained fixed and drifted 
southwards along the coast, to be crushed between 
the floes and sunk one after another.^ The first loss 
was on August 19 and 20, when six vessels went 
down at about the same spot, or between lat. 67° 30' 
and 68° N., and some fifty miles from shore. The 
rest floated steadily southwards, generally at a 
distance of forty or fifty miles from the coast, and 
nearly always within sight of it. At the end .of 
September they were between lat. 64° and 65° N, 
The last of them was crushed on October 11, 
some thirty miles from land, in lat. 61° 30' JST., or 
just oflF Anoritok, the place where our own drift 

The distance this last survivor had drifted since 
she was first caught in the ice was about 1,250' miles ; 

' They were probably nine Hamburg vessels, eight EngUsh, seven 
Dutch, two Swedish, one Danish, and one from Bremen. 

^ At this part of the coast ships have often been caught in the ice; 
though not with such tragic results as in this case. In 1769, for 
instance, four ships are said to have been caught in the beginning of 
July at about lat. 76° N., and drifted down to lat. 69^ N., which they 
reached on November 16 and 19. Two of these vessels then worked 
free, while the other two disappeared from history. 

' Of these twelve, six seem to have been Dutchmen and six Germans 
from Hamburg, while their crews consisted to a large extent of Danes 
from the islands off the west coast of Jutland and Sleswig, as well as 
from Holstein. 


the voyage lasted 107 days, and the average rate of 
progress was therefore rather less than twelve miles 
in the twenty-four hours. During the latter part, 
however, the speed had been considerably higher 
than this, as from the end of September onwards it 
was as much as twenty miles a day. 

The crews of the ships, as they sank, generally 
took refuge on board the survivors, though some of 
them also took to the floes and remained there. The 
whole body of them drifted on, their sufferings and 
hardships continually increasing. Many of them 
died by degrees, some by drowning, some of cold, 
but most of starvation, for as a rule little had been 
saved from the wrecked ships, which had been ill 
enough victualled in the first instance. 

On the last ship as many as 286 men had 
gradually accumulated. Their need was extreme, 
and at the end the whole daily ration consisted of 
ten spoonfuls of porridge. In the beginning of 
October, twelve men off this ship tried to cross the 
ice to land in lat. 63° K. They actually reached an 
island, but as they could not cross to the mainland 
they returned. This party may therefore be consid- 
ered the first who in -modern times have made their 
way to the east coast of Greenland from the sea.^ 

^ Of one party of 160 men who had been obliged to take to the ice 
and boats as early as September 30, in lat. 64° N., twenty-four tried 'to 
make for the coast at. about lat. 63° N., but apparently without success. 


After the wreck of the last vessel, most of the 
men on board remained together on the ice. But as 
they saw that, if they all made their way to any 
settlement in one body, it would be impossible to 
provide food for them, they divided into several 
parties. One of these sections is said to have 
pushed along the coast northwards, and another and 
larger party to have left the coast with the idea of 
crossingby land to the west, but of neither of these 
has anything ever been heard. A third body of 
fifty went on along the coast southward's, and to the 
north of Cape Farewell, probably at AUuk, they met 
with Eskimo, who received them kindly, provided 
them with food, and sent them on in skin boats, in 
which they eventually found their way to the Danish 
colonies. A fourth party, also containing about 
fifty men, drifted on in the ice round Cape Farewell 
without trying to land, and after many sufierings and 
in reduced numbers reached the west coast, some at 
Fredrikshaab, others near Godthaab. 

Of the rest of the crews, who had never been on 
the last vessel, various small sections floated down 
on the ice to Cape Farewell, and made their way 
in their boats to the colonies during October and 
November. The most noteworthy voyage was made 
by a small party of six men, who landed to the north 
of Godthaab. These men had saved two boats and 


nearly all the provisions from their vessel when she 
sank, and remained on the ice in preference to taking 
refuge on another ship. Subsequently they- took 
to the open sea, rowed and sailed along the ice 
round Cape Farewell, until at last, after enduring all 
sorts of hardships, they reached a little rock to the 
north of Godthaa,b and about two or three miles 
from the mainland. Where they were they had no 
notion, but on this rock they resolved to stay and 
winter. They lived on the provisions they had with 
them, and out of the sails and oars built a hut, but 
they suffered much from cold and want of water, 
while in stormy weather the sea broke so heavily 
over their rock that they were in constant danger of 
drowning. At last, at the end of March, some Green- 
landers found them and took them in to Godthaab. 
These six men must have travelled nearly 800 miles 
on the ice or in their open boats. 

Of the whole number that manned these unfortu- 
nate ships, some 320 men never returned home, 
while about 155 made their way to the west coast of 
Greenland, and were thence shipped back to Europe. 
That they were aU hospitably received by Eskimo 
and Danes alike is a matter of course.-^ 

' Julius Payer, in his very inaccurate account of this occurrence (Die 
osterreichisch-unga/riscke Nordpol-Mxpe&ition in. den Jahren 1872- 
1874, Vienna, 1876, p. 481) wouldlead thereaderto suppose that the saiLors 
who were saved — by a strange error he mates them twelve in number 


Another voyage along the same ice-belt, . almost 

-as remarkable as the last, though in no degree so 

trasric, was that of the ' Hansa ' crew in the 

The ° 

'Hausa,' winter of 1869 and 1870. The 'Hansa' was 


one of the two vessels commissioned to set 
the so-called ' Second German Worth-pole Expedition ' 
■on shore on the northern coast of East Greenland. 

In the attempt to force the ice the ' Germania,' 
the other of the two vessels and a steamship, pushed 
safely through, while the ' Hansa,' a sailing-vessel 
only, under the command of Captain Hegemann, was 
■completely caught on September 6, at about lat. 
74° 6' ]Sr. and long. 16° 30' W., or very near the same 
■spot where the whalers were caught in 1777, this 
being some fifty miles from land. The vessel then 
■drifted steadily southwards at comparatively Uttle 
distance from shore until, on October 19, she was 
crushed and went down in lat. 70° 50' N. and long. 
20° 30' W., not far from the so-called Liverpool coast. 
The necessary provisions were saved, however; and 
as it was resolved to remain on the ice rather than 

— -were badly received and treated on the -west coast and after they 
returned to Europe. _ This view lacks every ground of probability, and 
it has furthermore been vigorously opposed and, it is to be hoped, 
refuted for ever by Captain C. Normann in his elaborate article upon 
the same subject in the GeografisTc Tidshrift, vol. ii. pp. 49-63 
(Copenhagen, 1878). In this he gives a comparison of the many older 
accounts of the occurrence, and from his study most of my O'wn notice 
is taken. 


attempt to reach the shore, a hut of coal was built 
on a floe. In this the crew passed the winter, 
drifting meanwhile steadily down the coast, until on 
January 15, and in lat. 66° N., the floe during a 
storm split in two just under the hut itself, and the 
men had to take to the boats. Subsequently, a 
smaller hut was built on a neighbouring floe. Amid 
a variety of experiences the party drifted on till on 
May 7, in lat. 61° 12' JST., or thereabouts — again not 
far from Anoritok — they found they could leave the 
floe and make their way to shore in the boats. The 
circumstances of their landing were astonishingly 
like those of ours on July 29. On May 6 they had 
no notion that they would be able to leave the 
floe so soon, and were no little surprised next day 
to find open water stretching away towards land. 
Furthermore, they found that they had then drifted 
some nine miles to the north since the day before, 
We too, as the reader may remember, apparently 
drifted very little to the south during the night 
preceding our escape from the ice, so in both cases 
there must have been certain irregularities of current 
just at this spot. 

But though they left their floe on May 7, the 
-' Hansa ' crew did not reach the coast till June L, 
when they landed on the island of Tluilek, which 
lies in about lat. 60° 57' N. Hence they pushed on 


southwards, and finally the three boats, with the 
whole crew of the vessel intact, arrived at the Mo- 
ravian missionary station of Priedrichsthal, to the 
west of Cape Farewell, on June 13. 

The whole distance which these men drifted from 
first to last, from the time that their vessel was 
caught in the ice in September 1869 to the day on 
which they left the ice-floe for the boats, was almost 
exactly the same as that traversed by their prede- 
cessors in 1777 — that is to say, about 1,250 miles. 
This voyage lasted about eight months, or 246 days, 
which gives a daily average of rather more than five 
miles, or less than half the speed attained on the 
earlier occasion. The reason of this is perhaps to 
some extent because the current may not be so strong 
in the winter, and also because they were not very 
far from shore. The month in which the 'Hansa' 
crew drifted fastest was November, when their 
average speed was nearly. nine miles a day. At this 
time they were still north of Iceland. 

If these two averages, twelve miles a day in 1777 
and five miles a day in 1869, be compared with the 
rate at which ' we travelled during our eleven days' 
drift, which was as much as thirty miles in the 
twenty-four hours, the difference is very remark- 
able. On most days, indeed, we drifted little less 
than thirtv-three miles. One reason of this differ- 


ence probably is that during the summer the current 
has considerably more speed than at any other 
season of the year, and another the fact that the 
' Hansa ' crew were well in the middle of the ice- 
belt, while we were on its outskirts. The crews of 
1777 too, as I have said, drifted much faster during 
the latter part of their voyage, as to the south of 
lat. 64° N. they had a daily average of between 
nineteen and twenty miles.-^ 

One remarkable circumstanoe in connexion with 
the current between lat. 61° and 62° N. I have 
already had occasion to remark upon more than 
once.^ Here there often seems to be some irregu- 
larity of speed and direction, which may possibly 
be due to the fact that an arm from some stream 
travelling northwards here meets the great Polar 
current and disturbs the general order of things by 
forcing a tongue of ice out to sea.^ It appears to 

^ It would appear that the strength of the omrent just to the north 
of Cape Dan is considerably less than that in the neighbourhood of the 
Cape and further south. Among the Norwegian sealers who frequent 
Denmark Strait it is also an accepted fact that the stream runs faster the 
nearer one coines to Cape Dan. As I have already said several times, 
I was on board the sealer ' Viking ' in 1882, when she was fast in 
the ice for twenty-three days, about lat. 67° N., but aU this time our 
drift was inconsiderable. Several other Norwegian sealers have 
been caught in the ice in the same latitude for longer or shorter 
periods, but, as far as I can learn, they have not drifted to any serious 

* See pp. 290, 294 and 299. 

5 See pp. 272 and 290. 


me too very probable that the Polar current aloncf 
all the southern part of the coast, or below lat. 69° 
N., is subjected to periodic modifications, which may 
possibly be largely due to changes in an oppositional 
stream with a northerly direction, which obtrudes 
arms into it and causes divergences of greater or less 

None of the expeditions or voyages with which 
we have been so far concerned have done very much 
to contribute to our knowledge of the east coast of 

The knowledge that is now available with regard 
to the more southerly portion of the long coast, that 
portion up which our boats were now about to work 
their way, is due mainly to the efforts of two other 
expeditions. Without their experience to guide us, 
and especially without the help of the latter of the 
two, it would hardly have been possible for us to 
make satisfactory progress. 

When DaneFs voyages in the middle of the 
seventeenth century had proved, as people then 
thought, the impossibility of landing on the east- 
coast from the open sea, attention was naturally 
drawn to the other alternative of starting from the 
west coast and working up along shore within the 
ice-belt. Proposals to this end were made about the 


year 1664 by P. H. Eesen, and again in 1703 by 
Arngrim Vidalin.^ 

As I have already said, Hans Poulsen Egede, the 
Greenland missionary, held the common belief that 
H. Egede, ^^® Settlement of Osterbygden lay on the east 
coast, since he could find no descendants of 
the old Scandinavians on the west side. So in 1723, 
he started with two boats from what is now the colony 
of Godthaab, with the intention of rounding Cape. 
Farewell and working upwards. He got no farther 
than Nanortalik in lat. 60° S'N., on the west side of 
the cape, where on August 26 he was obliged to 
turn back owing to the lateness of the season and 
an insufficiency of provisions. He nevertheless still 
considered that the east coast would be best reached 
in this way, by working up close in shore, and per- 
haps by the use of ordinary Eskimo skin-boats. 

A little later, or in 1733, a similar attempt was 
joohim- niade from Godthaab by Mathias Jochim- 
sen, 1733 ^^^^ ^j^^ ^^^^ however, stopped by ice in 

lat. 61° N. on the west side. 

A far more successful journey was made by Peder 
Olsen Walloe, a Bornholmer by birth, who 

Walloe, ■ 

1751 and was Settled as a merchant in Greenland for 


many years. In August 1751, Walloe left 
Godthaab in a native boat with a crew of four Eskimo ■ 

' Meddelelser om Oronlcmd, vol. ix. p. 26 (Copenhagen, 1889). 


women and two Europeans. The first year he reached 
what is now the District of Julianehaab, where he 
made certain explorations and spent the winter. The 
uext year he passed Cape Farewell and worked a 
little way up the east coast to an island which he. 
caUs Nenese, and which seems to lie in lat. 60° 56' N. 
Here on August 6 he was obliged to turn back. 

Walloe is the first European who is known with 
certainty to have landed on the southern part of the 
east coast. He reaped little profit from his enterprise 
and perseverance, as he afterwards lived in Denmark 
in the most miserable circumstances, and .died in 
1793, at the age of seventy-seven, in the almshouse of 
Vartov at Copenhagen. 

Towards the end of last century it was clearly 
shown by Eggers that the missing and much-sought- 
for settlement of ' Osterbygden ' must after all have 
been on the west coast and not on the east, and that 
its transposition to the wrong side of the country 
was due to the learned inen of the past, who had 
completely misinterpreted the old JSTorse narratives. 

This discovery, however, did not deprive the 
forlorn east coast of its interest, and in the year 
Graah 1829-30 the Danish naval officer, Lieutenant 
1829-1830 T^ j^ Graah, made his memorable voyage of 
exploration up along the land in native boats, which 
were chiefly manned by Eskimo women. 


The east coast was reached on April 1, and on 
June 20, in lat. 61° 47' N., Graah boldly resolved 
to send his European companions back and go on 
alone with one boat and six Greenlanders. A week 
•later, when in lat. 63° 37' N., he was abandoned by all 
the natives but three girls, whom he with difficulty 
persuaded to go with him as rowers. On July 24 he 
reached his northernmost camping-place, an island 
in lat. 65° 13' JST., to which he gave the name of 
'Vendom,' or 'Eeturn.' On August 18 he- raised a 
cairn of stones on the island Dannebrogso, which lies 
in lat. 65° 19' N. and was the most northerly point he 
reached. Here further progress was stopped by the ice. 

On August 21 he set out upon the return voyage, 
and on October 1 went into winter quarters at what 
he calls Nukarbik, but is now known as Imarsivik, 
in lat. 63° 22' N. 

During the winter he had much privation and 
sickness to contend against, though when spring 
came he made another attempt with undiminished 
courage to advance northwards. On July 25, how- 
ever, he had to turn back again after going through 
the most extraordinary hardships, and this time 
without having advanced so far as the year before. 
At last, on October 16, he brought his difficult and 
adventurous voyage to an end at Fredrikshaab. 

This remarkable journey provided science with a 

VOL. I. X 


mass of information as to the east coast of Greenland 
as far as the 65th parallel. On all this coast Graah, 
however, found no traces of Scandinavian occupation, 
and herewith the impossibility of the old settlement 
having been situated on this side of the peninsula 
seemed established. The only token of European 
life which he came across was a cannon found at 
Koremiut in Narketfjord, in lat. 61° 17' JST. This was 
probably a waif from some ship which had been 
caught in the ice and had drifted down the coast. 

jSTevertheless, many years afterwards, or in 1 881, 
a Scandinavian ruin was actually discovered by the 
Brodbeck Moravian missionary Brodbeck at Narsak on 
■"■^^^ the northern side of Lindenow's Fjord or 

Kangerdlugsuatsiak, in lat. 60° 30' N., on the occa- 
sion of a journey in a native boat which he under- 
took along this part of the coast. This ruin, to 
which attention had been called early in the century 
by Giesecke, who knew of it from the reports of the 
Eskimo, is the only remnant of the kind that has 
been found upon the east coast. 

The last and most important expedition along 
these shores is that to which I have already inci- 
Hoim dentally referred in my opening chapter, and 
1883-1885 ^i^ig]^ jg tnown as the Danish 'Konebaad' 
Expedition under the leadership of Captain G. Holm. 
This expedition lasted from 1883 to 1885, and, like 


that previously conducted by Graah, was organised 
by the Danish Government. It was also in connexion 
with the systematic geological and geographical in- 
vestigations carried out in Greenland since 1876. 

In addition to Captain Holm, the expedition 
consisted of his own countrymen, Lieutenant Garde, 
also of the Danish Navy, and Peter Eberlin, botanist 
and geologist, together with the Norwegian geolo- 
gist, H. Knutsen, and two Danish Greenlanders, the 
brothers Petersen, as interpreters. All the travelling 
was to be done in ' umiaks,' or native skin-boats with 
Eskimo crews, as the Danes had gradually come to 
the conclusion that only in this way could the shore^ 
ice and water be successfully navigated. 

The first summer the whole party, who were 
distributed among four skin-boats and ten ' kayaks,' 
advanced as far as Iluilek, in lat 60° 52' N., which 
they reached at the beginning of August. This was 
made a dep6t for the coming year, and then, on 
August 10, the expedition returned to their head- 
quarters, Nanortalik, to the 'W'est of Cape Farewell, 
where they spent the winter. 

Next year, 1884, four boats and seven ' kayaks,' 
with thirty-one natives in addition to the Europeans, 
set out upon the coast voyage, but on July 18 a por- 
tion of the whole body were sent back from Karra 

X 2 


On July 28 Tingmiarmiut was reached, but here 
half the expedition were sent back under Lieutenant 
Garde to Nanortalik for the purpose of exploring the 
coast on the way. 

Captain Holm, with the remainder, which con- 
sisted of Knutsen, Johan Petersen, and two Eskimo 
men and six women to man the two boats, left 
Tingmiarmiut on July 30. On August 25, or a whole 
month later than Graah, they reached Dannebrogsb, 
his most northerly point, On September 1 they 
arrived at Angmagsalik by Cape Dan, where they 
found a tract inhabited by no less than 413 natives, 
and which they made their winter quarters. 

Next summer, or in 1885, they started southwards 
again on June 9, and at Umanak, in about lat. 63° N., 
they met on July 16 the rest of the expedition, who 
had come up from the south. On August 1.8 the 
whole party were once more at Nanortalik, whence 
shortly afterwards they returned to Denmark. 

The scientific results of this expedition were of 
surprising importance ; the east coast had now been 
thoroughly explored as far as lat. 66° N., both 
ethnographicaUy and geographically, and the ac- 
curate maps which were the result were the main 
reason why we were enabled to push our way 
northwards with certainty and little loss of time. 




The first thing we did when we were through the ice 
was to look for the nearest land. We wanted to feel 
the Greenland rocks beneath our feet as soon as pos- 
sible, and, besides, I had long promised chocolate and. 
a Sunday dinner for the day we first touched dry 
land again. 

Almost opposite to us, and nearer than anything 
else, was the high rounded summit of Kutdlek 
Island. It would, however, have taken us too much 
out of our way to put in here, as we were going north. 
So we steered across the open water to the more 
northerly island of Kekertarsuak. 

On the way we passed under a huge iceberg which 
lay stranded here in the open water. On its white 
back sat flocks of guUs, strewn like black dots about 
its surface. As we went by, a big piece of ice fell 
crashing into the water, and crowds of seabirds rose 
and wheeled round us, uttering their monotonous 
cries. This was all new to us. To have living crea- 
tures about us again was cheering indeed, while it 


was even still more grateful to be able to row un- 
hindered through all this open water. 

As we advanced, however, we found that we had 
still some obstacles to pass before reaching land, as 
there was another belt of ice stretching southwards 
parallel with the shore. But it was of no great 
breadth, and, as the ice was fairly open, we forced 
our way through without much trouble. At last our 
boats, flying the Norwegian and Danish flags, glided 
under a steep clifi", the dark wall of which was mir- 
rored in the bright water, and made it nearly black. 
The rock echoed our voices as we spoke, and the 
moment was one of extreme solemnity. Beyond the 
clifi" we found a harbour where we could bring our 
boats ashore." Then we scrambled out, each striving 
to get first to land and feel real rocks and stones 
under his feet, and to climb up the cliffs to get the 
first look round. We were just like children, and a 
bit of moss, a stalk of grass, to say nothing of a flower, 
drew out a whole rush of feelings. All was so fresh 
to us, and the tr5,nsition was so sudden and complete. 
The Lapps ran straight up the mountain side, and for 
a long while we saw nothing more of them. 

But as soon as the first flood of joy was over we 
had to turn to more prosaic things, that is to say, our 
promised dinner. The cooker was put up on a rock 
down by the boats, and the chocolate set under way- 


Plenty of cooks were ready to help, and meanwhile I 
thought I might as well follow the Lapps' example 
and go for a mountain chmb, to see how things looked 
and how the land lay further north. 

So I started up, first over some bare rock, over 
a drift of snow, and then across some flat moor- 
like ground, groM'n with lichens and heather, and 
sprinkled with huge erratic boulders. I can still 

(Si/ t/ie Author) 

clearly and distinctly remember every stone and 
every stalk. How strange it was, too, to have a wider 
view again, to look out to sea and see the ice and 
water shining far below me, to see the rows of peaks 
round about me lying bathed in the hazy sunshine, 
and to see, too, the ' Inland ice ' stretched out before 
me, and, I might say, almost beneath my feet. 

To the south was the high rounded summit of 


Kutdlek Island, and beyond it the fine outline of Cape 
Tordenskjold. I welcomed the latter as a fellow- 
countryman, as not only the name but the form- 
recalled Norway. I sat down on a stone to take a 
sketch and bask in the sun. As I rested there, 
delighting in the view and the mere fact of existence, 
I heard something come singing through the air and 
stop in the neighbourhood of my hand. It was a 
good well-known old tune it sang, and I looked down 
at once. It was a gnat, a real gnat, and presently 
others joined it. I let them sit quietly biting, and 
took pleasure in their attack. They gave me, these 
dear creatures, sensible proof that I was on land, as 
they sat there and sucked themselves full and red. 
It was long, no doubt, since they last tasted human 
blood. But this was a pleasure of which, as shall 
soon be told, we had afterwards reason to grow more 
than tired. 

I sat a while longer, and presently heard a fami- 
liar twitter. I looked up and saw a snow-bunting 
perched on a stone close by, and watching the 
stranger's movements with his head first on one side 
and then on the other. Then he chirped again, 
hopped on to the next stone, and, after continuing 
his inspection for a while, flew off. At such times 
and places life is always welcome, and not least so 
when it comes in the form of a twittering little bird, 



and finds a response in the smaH bird element of 
one's own nature, especiaUy if one ha? long been 
outside the regions of spring and summer. Even a 
spider which I came across among the lichens on a 
stone on my way up was enough to turn my thoughts 
to home and kindlier scenes. 

(From a photograph) 

From my point of vantage I could see a good way 
to the north. It looked as if we were to have open 
ice for the first bit, but beyond Inugsuit the floes 
seemed to he closer, and clearly promised to give us 
trouble. But it was now time for me to go down and 
join the others, as the chocolate must be nearly ready. 


It was nothing like so, however, when I reached the 
shore. The water was not yet boiling, and it was 
plainly a case of unskilful cooks. But they had 
certainly not had much practice while we were 
drifting south, as, if I remember right, we had only 
cooked three times in twelve days. Meanwhile I 
spent the time in taking a photograph of the scene, 
— of a spot which takes a prominent place in the 
history of our expedition. 

At last the Jong-expected chocolate was ready, 
and six patient throats could at last enjoy deep 
, draughts of the glorious nectar. Besides fuller 
allowances of the ordinary fare, we were treated, in 
honour of the day, to adjuncts in the form of oatmeal- 
biscuits and Gruyere cheese, and our native delicacies 
' mysost ' and ' tyttebeer'-jam. It was indeed a divine 
repast, surpassing anything we had had hitherto ; 
we deserved it and equally weU enjoyed it, and our 
spirits were at the height of animation. 

Balto's account of our stay on this island sets 
forth that ' the spot was quite free of snow, grass- 
grown, and covered with' heather and a few juniper- 
bushes. We had quite a little feast here, and were 
treated to all the best we had — cheese, biscuits, jam, 
and other small delicacies. The cooking-machine 
was put up on a rock ; we made chocolate, and sat 
round the pot, drinking, with the sea lying at our 


feet. Nansen took several pictures, and the place 
was named Gamel's Haven.' 

We came to the conclusion that we might for this 
once take our time and enjoy life to the full, but 
that this must be the last of such indulgence. Hence- 
forth our orders were to sleep as little as possible, to 
eat as little and as quickly as possible, and to get 
through as much work as possible. Our food was 
to consist in the main of biscuits, water, and dried 
meat. To cook anything or to get fresh meat there 
would be little or no time, though there was plenty 
of game. The best of the season was already passed, 
and little of the short Greenland summer remained. 
But still we had time to reach the west coast, if only 
we used that time well. It was a question of sticking 
to our work, and stick to it indeed we did. 

Our grand dinner was at last finished, and about 
five o'clock in the afternoon we embarked again and 
started on our way north. 

At first we pushed on quickly, as the water-way 
was good and clear, but as evening came on things 
changed for the worse. The ice packed closer, and 
often we had to break our way. From time to time, 
however, we came upon long leads of open water 
and made ground fast. The sun sank red behind 
the mountains, the night was still and woke all our 
longings, the day lay dreaming beyond the distant 


peaks, but there was little time for us to indulge 
in sympathy with Nature's moods and phases. The 
whole night we worked northwards through the ice. 
At midnight it was hard to see, but with attention 
we could distinguish ice from open water by the 
reflection from the glowing evening sky, 

I was the more anxious to push on, for it was 
not far to the ill-famed glacier of Puisortok, where 
Captain Holm on his voyage along the coast in 1884 
was kept by the ice seventeen days. I imagined that 
the reason why this spot had so evil a reputation was 
because the current held the flOes more closely packed 
here than elsewhere, and it seemed to me of vital- 
importance that we should reach this point of diffi- 
culty as soon as possible, in order to take the first 
opportunity caused by the opening of the ice to 
push by. 

In the course of the night we reached the head- 
land of Kangek or Cape Eantzau, where the ice was 
packed so close that we could row no longer, but had 
to force our way. Before our axe, long boat-hooks, 
and crowbars aU obstacles had, however, to recede, 
and we worked steadily on. But the new ice formed 
on the water between the floes added much to our 
labour, as towards morning it grew thicker and 
hindered the boats considerably, and it even remained 
unmelted till well into the day. Towards morning. 


too, our strength began to give out ; we had now 
worked long and were hungry, as we had eaten 
nothing since our great dinner of the day before. 
Some of us were so sleepy, too, that we could scarcely 
keep awake. In our zeal to push onwards, and our 
enjoyment of our new life, we had quite forgotten 
bodily needs, which now asserted themselves with 
greater insistence. So we landed on a floe to rest and 
refresh ourselves. Breakfast was a pure enjoyment, 
though we could scarcely allow that we had time to sit 
still to eat it. Then came the sun ; his beams shot up 
through space, lighter and lighter grew the sky, the 
spot on the north-east horizon burned brighter and 
brighter, and then the globe of fire himself rose 
slowly above the plain of ice. We let mind and body 
•bask in his rays ; new life quickened in us, and 
weariness had in a moment fled away. Once more 
we set to work in the growing dawn. 

But the ice was closer packed than ever, and inch 
by inch and foot by foot we had to break our way. 
Often things looked simply hopeless, but my inde- 
fatigable comrades lost not heart ; we had to push 
through, and push through we did. 

We passed Cape Eantzau, passed Karra akungnak, 
which is known from Holm and Garde's voyage in 
1884, and reached Cape Adelaer, where things were 
bad, even to despair. The floes lay jammed together. 


were huge and unwieldy, and refused to move. With 
our long boat-hooks we tried to part them, but in 
vain. All six as one man fell to, but they lay like 
rocks. Once more we put all our strength into 
our work, and now they gave. A gap of an inch 
inspirited us ; we set to again, and they opened 
further. We now knew our strength, and perse- 
verance was sure of its reward. Presently they had 
parted so far that we could take the boats through 
after hacking off the projecting points of ice. Thus 
we pass on to the next floe, where the same perfor- 
mance is repeated. By united exertion, pushed to its 
utmost limits, we force our way. It needs no little 
experience to take boats safely through ice like 
this. One must have an eye for the weak points of 
the floes, must know how to use to the best advan- 
tage the forces at one's disposal, must be quick to 
seize the opportunity and push the boats on just as 
the floes have parted, for they close again imme- 
diately, and if the boats are not through, and clear, 
they are at once unmercifully crushed. Several 
times, when we were not quite quick enough, Sver- 
drup's boat, which followed mine, was nipped 
between the floes till her sides writhed and bulged 
under the pressure ; but her material was elastic, and 
she was finally always brought through without real 


At last we passed Cape Adelaer, and worked along 
the shore, through ice that still lay closely packed, 
to the next promontory, which I have since named 
Cape Garde. We reached this cape about noon, and 
determined to land and get something to eat, and some 
sleep, both of which we sorely needed after more than 
twenty-four hours' hard and continuous work in the 
ice. We had just with great difficulty dragged our 
boats up the steep rocks, pitched our tent, and begun 
our preparations for dinner, when there occurred an 
event which was entirely unexpected, and to our 
minds indeed little short of miraculous. 

My diary of the next day records the occurrence 
thus : — 

'Yesterday, July 30, about noon, after an 
incredibly laborious struggle through the ice, we 
had at last put in by — let us for the moment 
call it Cape Garde — a promontory to the north of 
Karra akungnak to get some food and a few hours' 
sleep. The much-dreaded glacier, Puisortok, lay 
just in front of us, but we hoped to get by it 
without delay, though it had kept Holm back for 
no less than seventeen days. While we were having 
some dinner, or, more accurately, were busy getting 
it ready, I heard amid the screams of the gulls a 
cry of a different kind, which was amazingly like 
a human voice. I drew the others' attention to 


the fact, but there was so little probability of our 
finding human beings in these regions that for 
some time we were contented to attribute the 
noise to a " diver " (Colymbus) or some similar 
bird, which was perhaps as little likely to occur 
up here as a human being himself. However, 
we answered these cries once or twice, and they 
came gradually nearer. Just as we were finishing 
our meal there came a shout so distinct and so close 
to us that most of us sprang to our feet, and one 
vowed that that could be no " diver." And indeed 
I think that even the staunchest adherent of the 
sea-bird theory was constrained to waver. Nor was 
it long before Balto, who had jumped up on a rock 
with a telescope, shouted to us that he could see two 
men. I joined him at once, and soon had the glass 
upon two black objects moving among the floes, now 
close to one another, now apart. They seemed to be 
looking for a passage through, as they would advance 
a bit and then go back again. At last they come 
straight towards us, and I can see the paddles going 
like mill-sails — it is evidently two small men in 
" kayaks." They come nearer and nearer, and Balto 
begins to assume a half- astonished, half-uneasy look, 
saying that he is almost afraid of these strange 
beings. They now come on, one bending forwards 
in his canoe as if he were bowing to us, though this 


was scarcely his meaning. With a single stroke they 
come alongside the rocks, crawl out of their "kayaks," 
one. carrying his small craft ashore, the other leaving 
his in the water, and the two stand before us, the 
first representatives of these heathen Eskimo of the 
east coast, of whom we have heard so much. Our 
first impression of them was distinctly favourable. 
We saw two somewhat wild but friendly faces smi- 
ling at us. One of the men was dressed in a jacket, 
as well as breeches, of sealskin, the two garments 
leaving a broad space uncovered between them at 
the waist. He had on "kamiks," the peculiar 
Eskimo boots, and no covering for the head except 
a few strings of beads.' 

Here my entry describing this strange meeting is 
broken off, though my recollection of the scene is 
still as vivid as if it had all happened yesterday, and 
it is an easy matter for me to supply all that is 
wanting. The other one had, to our surprise, some 
garments of European origin, as his upper parts were 
clad in an ' anorak,' a sort of jacket, of blue cotton 
stuff with white spots, while his legs and feet were 
cased in sealskin trousers and ' kamiks,' and his 
waist was also to a large extent quite bare of cloth- 
ing. On his head he had a peculiar broad and flat- 
brimmed hat, formed of a wooden ring over which blue 
cotton stuff had been stretched. On the crown was 

VOL. I. Y 


a large red cross covering its whole expanse. This 
pattern of head-dress, in various garish colours and 
generally with the cross upon it, is very common 
among the Eskimo of the east coast. They use them 
when in their 'kayaks,' partly for the shade they afford, 
and partly for the decorative effect. Later they showed 
us some of these hats with great pridel They were 
little fellows, these two, evidently quite young and of 
an attractive appearance, one of them, indeed — he 
with the beads in his hair — being actually handsome; 
He had a dark, almost chestnut-brown skin, long jet- 
black hair drawn back from the forehead by the band 
of beads and falling round his neck and shoulders, 
and a broad, round, attractive face with features 
almost regular. There was something soft, some- 
thing almost effeminate, in his good looks, so much so 
indeed that we were long in doubt whether he was a 
man at all. Both these little fellows were of light 
and active build, and were graceful in all their move- 

As they approached us they began to smile, ges- 
ticulate, and talk as fast as their tongues would go, 
in a language of which, of course, we understood not 
a single word. They pointed south, they pointed 
north, out to the ice and in to the land, then at us, 
at our boats, and at themselves, and all the time 
chattering with voluble persistence. Their eloquence, 


indeed, was quite remarkable, but little did it enable 
us to comprehend them. We smiled in our turn and 
stared at them in foolish helplessness, while the Lapps 
showed open indications of uneasiness. They were 
still a little afraid of these ' savages,' and held them- 
selves somewhat in the background. 

Then I produced some papers on which a friend 
had written in Eskimo a few questions the answers to 
which I was likely to find serviceable. These ques- 
tions I now proceeded to apply in what was meant to 
pass for tolerable Eskimo, but now came the Green- 
landers' turn to look foolish, and they stared at me 
and then at each other with an extremely puzzled 
air. I went through the performance again, but 
with exactly the same result, and not a word did they 
understand. Persevering, I tried once or twice more, 
the only efiect of which was to make them gesticu- 
late and chatter volubly together, leaving us as wise 
as we were before. In despair I threw the papers 
down, for this was a performance that could only 
lead to premature grey hair. I wanted to find out 
something about the ice further north, but the only 
semblance of success was that I thought I heard 
them mention Tingmiarmiut, at the same time point- 
ing northwards, and once, too, Umanak — or, at least, 
I seemed to catch some sounds which these names 
might be supposed to represent — but even this left 



US in exactly the same state of darkness. Then I 
had recourse to signs, and with better success, for I 
learned that there were more of them encamped or 
living to the north of Puisortok, and that it was neces- 
sary to keep close under the glacier to get by. Then 
they pointed to Puisortok, made a number of strange 
gesticulations, and assumed an inimitably grave and 
serious air, admonishing us the while, all of which 
apparently meant that this glacier was extremely 
dangerous, and that we must take the .greatest 
care not to run into it, nor to look at it, nor to speak 
as we passed it, and so on. These East Greenlanders, 
it is said, have a number of superstitious notions 
about this particular glacier. Then we tried by 
means of signs to make them understand that we had 
not come along the land from the south, but from the 
open sea, which intelligence only produced a long- 
drawn sonorous murmur, deep as the beUow of a 
cow, and, as we supposed, meant to express the very 
extremity of astonishment. At the same time they 
looked at one another and at us with a very doubt- 
ful air. Either they did not believe a word we 
told them, or else, perhaps, they took us for super- 
natural beings. The latter was probably their real 
estimate of us. 

Then they began to admire our equipment. The 
boats, above all, attracted their atten.tion, and the iron 


fittings especially excited the greatest astonishment 
and admiration. 

We gave them each a bit of meat-biscuit, at 
which the}'' simply beamed with pleasure. Each ate 
a little and carefully put away the rest, evidently 
to take home to the encampment. All this while, 
however, they were shivering and quaking with the 
cold, which was not to be wondered at, as they had 
very little in the way of clothing on, and, as I have 
said, were completely naked about the waist, while 
the weather was anything but warm. So, with some 
expressive gestures telling us that it was too cold to 
stand about there in the rocks, they prepared to go 
down to their canoes again. By signs they asked us 
whether we were coming northwards, and, as we 
answered affirmatively, they once more warned us 
against the perils of Puisortok, and went down to 
the water. Here they put their skin-capes on, got 
their ' kayaks ' ready, and crept in with the lightness 
and agility of cats. Then with a few strokes they 
shot as swiftly and noiselessly as water-fowl over the 
smooth surface of the sea. Then they threw their 
harpoons or bird-spears, which flew swift as arrows 
and fell true upon the mark, to be caught up again 
at once by the ' kayaker ' as he came rushing after. 
Now their paddles went like mill-sails as they darted 
among the floes, now they stopped to force their way 


or push, the ice aside, or to look for a better passage. 
Now, again, an arm was raised to throw the spear, 
was drawn back behind the head, held still a moment 
as the dart was poised, then shot out like a spring of 
steel as the missile flew from the throwing-stick. 
Meanwhile they drew further and further from us ; 
soon they looked to us like mere black specks 
among the ice far away by the glacier ; and in a 
moment more they had passed behind an iceberg and 
disappeared from our view. And we remained be- 
hind, reflecting on this our first meeting with the 
east coast Eskimo. We had never expected to fall 
in with people here, where, according to Holm and 
Garde's experience, the coast was uninhabited. These 
we thought must be some migrant body, and in this 
belief we retired to our tent, crept into our bags, and 
were soon fast asleep. 

Balto's description of this meeting, tkough written 
a year after the occurrence, agrees so closely with 
the notes in my diary which were entered the day 
after it, but have never been accessible to him, that 
I think I ought to quote it in justice to his memory, 
if not for its own sake. ' While we were sitting 
and eating,' he writes, 'we heard a sound like a 
human voice, but we thought it was only a raven's 
cry. Presently we heard the same sound again, and 
now some of us thought it was a loon screaming. 


Then I took the glasses and went up on to a point of 
rock, and, looking about, saw something black 
moving across an ice-floe. So I shouted : "I can 
see two men over there on the ice," and JSTansen came 
running up at once and looked through the glass too. 
We now heard them singing their heathen psalms, 
and called to them. They heard us at once, and be- 
gan to row towards us. It was not long before they 
reached us, and as they came closer one of them gave 
us a profound bow. Then they put in to shore, and, 
getting out, dragged their canoes up on to land. As 
they came near us they lowed Hke cows, which meant 
that they wondered what sort of folk we were. Then 
we tried to talk to them, but we could not understand 
a word of their language. So Nansen pulled out his 
conversation-book and tried to talk to them that way, 
but it. was no use, because we could not make out 
how the letters were to be pronounced in their lan- 
guage. Then JSTansen went down to the boats and 
fetched some biscuit, which he gave to them, and 
afterwards they rowed away again northwards.' 

About six o'clock in the afternoon I woke and 
went out of the tent to see what the ice was doing. 
A fresh breeze was blowing off the land, and the floes 
had parted still more than before. There seemed to 
be a good water-way leading north, and I called my 
companions out. 


We were soon afloat and steering northwards for 
tlie dreaded glacier, in the best water we had had as 
yet. I was in constant fear, however, that things 
would be worse further on, and lost no time. But 
things became no worse, and the ice up here con- 
sisted chiefly of larger and smaller glacier-floes, 
which are much better than sea-floes to have to deal 
with in wooden boats, which are not cut by their 
sharp edges as skin-boats are. What hindered us 
most was that the water between the floes was full of 
small brash of the broken glacier ice. We pushed 
through, however, and the water proved compara- 
tively good the whole way. Without meeting serious 
obstacles we passed the glacier, sometimes rowing 
right under the perpendicular clifis of ice, which 
showed all the changing hues of glacier-blue, from 
the deepest azure of the rifts and chasms to the pale 
milky-white of the plain ice-wall, and of the upper 
surface, on which the snow still lay here and there in 

It is difficult to see what it really is that has given 
this glacier its evil reputation. It has very httle 
movement indeed, and therefore seldom calves, and 
when it does the pieces which come away must be 
relatively small, for there are no large icebergs to be 
seen in the sea near its edge. Nor is there depth 
enough of water to make such possible, and, further- 


more, at several points the underlying rock is visible, 
so that the glacier does not even reach the water 
throughout its whole extent. 

However, Graah and even earlier writers record 
the excessive dread which the Eskimo have for this 
dangerous glacier, which is always ready to faU upon 
and crush the passer-by, and far away from which 
out at sea huge masses of ice may suddenly dart up 
from the depths and annihilate both boat and crew. 
The name Puisortok also points in this direction, as it 
means ' the place where something shoots up.' It 
occurs at more than one point on the eastern coast in 
connection with glaciers, though its real force and 
intention is not easily explicable. That the Green- 
lander crews employed by Holm and Garde had the 
same superstitious dread of this same glacier is made 
very plain in their interesting narrative. Garde tells 
us that the idea prevalent among the natives of the 
southern part of the west coast is that 'when one 
passes Puisortok one has to row along under an 
overhanging wall of ice which may fall at any instant, 
and over masses of ice which lurk beneath the surface 
of the water and only await a favourable moment to 
shoot up and destroy the passing boats.' 

The Eskimo of the south-west have no doubt got 
their superstitious notions from the wild natives of 
the east coast with whom they have come into 


contact. The latter even have a number of rules of 
conduct which should govern the behaviour of the 
passer-by if he wish to escape alive. There must be 
no speaking, no laughing, no eating, no indulgence 
in tobacco, neither must one look at the glacier, nor 
mention the name Puisortok. If he do the latter, 
indeed, the glacier's resentment is such that certain 
destruction is the result. 

In spite of aU this one thing is certain, that 
Puisortok falls far short of its reputation. As I 
afterwards discovered, it is not even in connexion 
with the great sheet of the ' Inland ice.' It is a 
comparatively small local glacier lying upon a moun- 
tain ridge which is separated from the 'Inland ice' 
by a snow-coveredvaUey on its inner side. This is, 
of course, the reason of its relatively shght move- 
ment, which according to Garde's measurements is 
not above two feet in the twenty-four hours. Its 
very form and inclination also point to the fact that 
it is only local. 

The only remarkable thing about it is that it has 
so long a frontage to the sea. Garde estimates its 
breadth at about five miles, which is apparently 
correct. This fact, as Garde suggests, must plainly 
be the reason why the Eskimo are so afraid of it, 
for, as it comes right out into the sea, and has no 
protecting belt of islands and rocks, they are forced 


to pass along its face in the course of their journeys 
up and down the coast. The Eskimo dread any 
passage of the kind, which is not unreasonable, as 
the glaciers are continually calving, or dropping 
masses of ice from their upper parts, and the danger 
to passing craft is by no means imaginary. For if a 
boat happen to be off a glacier at the moment of its 
calving it will in most cases no doubt be lost 
beyond all hope of salvation. Even if the falling 
masses do not come into direct contact with it, the 
water is agitated to such a tremendous extent, and 
the floes and floating fragments of ice are thrown 
about so violently, that the chances of escape are 
very small. 

All the great glaciers, however, lie far in the 
recesses of narrow fjords, which in the course of ages 
they have themselves cut out or deepened by their 
powerful onward movement. But it is seldom that 
the Eskimo find their way into these fjords, and it is 
not as a rule necessary for them to pass close under 
these huge cliffs of ice, whose dangerous caprices 
they nevertheless well know. It is therefore, after all, 
not so much a matter for wonder that they feel 
anxiety when they have to pass so long a stretch of 
glacier as Puisortok, notwithstanding its compara- 
tively gentle ways. 

Be this as it may, we passed the glacier without 


mishap, and no superstitious terror prevented us 
from enjoying to tlie full the fantastic beauty of 
these mighty walls of ice. 

The water was still comparatively favourable as 
we worked north, and we pushed on fast. Our 
courage rose and rose, and we grew more and more 
convinced that nothing would now hinder us from 
reaching our goal. 

(By E. Nielsen, from aphotograph) 



As we drew near Gape Bille, tlie promontory 
which lies to the north of Puisortok, we heard 
strange sounds from shore — as it were, a mixture of 
human voices and the barking of dogs. As we 
gazed thither we now caught sight of some dark 
masses of moving objects, which, as we examined 
them more closely, we found to be groups of human 
beings. They were spread over the terrace of rock, 
were chattering in indistinguishable Babel, gesticulat- 
ing, and pointing towards us as we worked our way 
quietly through the ice. They had evidently been 
watching us for some time. We now too discovered 
a number of skin-tents which were perched among 



the rocks, and at the same time became aware of a 
noteworthy smell of train-oil or some similar sub- 
stance, which followed the off-shore breeze. Though 
it was still early, and though the water in front of us 
seemed open for some distance, we could not resist 
the temptation of visiting these strange and unknown 
beings. At the moment we turned 
our boats towards shore the cla- 
mour increased tenfold. They 
shrieked and yelled, pointed, q,nd 
rushed, some down to the shore,' 
others up on to higher rocks in 
order to see us better. If we were 
stopped by ice and took out our 
long boat-hooks and bamboo poles 
to force the fioes apart and make 
ourselves a channel the confusion 
on shore rose to an extraordin- 
ary pitch, the cries and laughter 
growing simply hysterical. As 
we got in towards land some men came darting out 
to us in their 'kayaks,' among them one of our 
acquaintances of the morning. Their faces one and 
all simply beamed with smiles, and in the most 
friendly way they swarmed round us in their active 
little craft, trying to point us out the way, which we 
could quite well find ourselves, and gazing in wonder 



(From a photograph^ 


at our strong boats as they glided on regardless of 
ice which would have cut their fragile boats of 
skin in pieces. 

At last we passed the last floe and drew in to 
shore. It was now growing dusk, and the scene that 
met us was one of the most fantastic to which I have 
ever been witness., All about the ledges of rock 
stood long rows of strangely wild and shaggy-looking 
creatures — men, women, and children all in much the 
same scanty dress — staring and pointing at us, and 
uttering the same bovine sound which had so much 
struck us in the morning. Now it was just as if we 
had a whole herd of cows about us, lowing in chorus, 
as the cowhouse door is opened in the morning to 
admit the expected fodder. Down by the water's 
edge were a number of men eagerly struggling and 
gesticulating to show us a good landing-place, which,, 
together with other small services of the kind, is the 
acknowledged Eskimo welcome to strangers whom 
they are pleased to see. Up on the rocks were a 
number of yellowish-brown tents, and lower down 
canoes, skin-boats, and other implements, while more 
' kayaks ' swarmed , round us in the water. Add to 
all this the neighbouring glacier, the drifting floes, 
and the glowing' evening sky, and, lastly, our two- 
boats and six unkempt-looking selves, and the whole 
formed a picture which we at least are not likely to 


forget. The life and movement were a welcome 
contrast indeed to the desolation and silence which 
we had so long endured. 

It was not long, of course, before our boats were 
safely moored and we standing on shore surrounded 
by crowds of natives who scanned us and our be- 
longings with wondering eyes. Beaming smiles and 
kindliness met us on all sides. A smiling face is the 
Eskimo's greeting to the stranger, as his language 
has no formula of welcome. 

Then we look round us for a bit. Here amid 
the ice and snow these people seemed to be comfort- 
able enough, and we felt indeed that we would 
willingly prolong our stay among them. As we 
stopped in front of the largest tent, at the sight of the 
comfortable glow that shone out through its outer 
opening, we were at once invited in by signs. We 
accepted the invitation, and as soon as we had passed 
the outer doorway a curtain of thin membranous 
skin was pushed aside for us, and, bending our heads 
as we entered, we found ourselves in a cosy room. 

The sight and smell which now met us were, to 
put it mildly, at least unusual. I had certainly been 
given to understand that the Eskimo of the east coast 
of Greenland were in the habit of reducing their in- 
door dress to the smallest possible dimensions, and 
that the atmosphere of their dwellings was the re- 


verse of pleasant. But a sight so extraordinary, and 
a smell so remarkable, had never come within the 
grasp of my imagination. The smell, which was a 
peculiar blending of several characteristic ingredients, 
was quite enough to occupy one's attention at first 
entrance. The most prominent of the components 
was due to the numerous train-oil lamps which were 
burning, and this powerful odour was well tempered 
with human exhalations of every conceivable kind^, as;^ 
well as the pungent effluvia of a certain fetid-liquid 
which was stored in vessels here and there about the 
room, and which, as I subsequently learned, is, from 
the various uses to which it is applied, one of the 
most important and valuable commodities of Eskimo 
domestic economy. ,Into further details I think it is 
scarcely advisable to go, and I must ask the reader 
to accept my assurance that the general effect was 
anything but attractive to the unaccustomed nose of 
the new-comer. However, familiarity soon has its 
wonted effect, and one's first abhorrence may even 
before long give way to a certain degree of pleasure. 
But it is not the same with everyone, and one or two 
of our party were even constrained to retire incon- 

For my own part, I soon found myself sufficiently 
at ease to be able to use my eyes. My attention was 
first arrested by the number of naked forms which 

VOL. I. z 



thronged the tent in standing, sitting, and reclining 

positions. All the occupants 
were, in fact, attired in their 
so-called " ' nt,tit ''; or . indoor 
dress; the dimensipns of which, 
are so extremely small as to; 
make ''it practically invisible' 
" '., to the stranger's^ inexperi- 
ehcedeye. The dresg.consigts 
ill. a. narrow band', aboiit the 
loins, which in thg '^ase-.,of 
the' women is reduced-to the 
smallest possible dimensions. 
■ ' Gf.-.'false ' modesty, 'of 
course,' there was nosign, but 
it' is not 'to be wondered at 
that the unaffected' ingenu- 
ousness with which all inter- 
course was carried on' naade a 
'. .very strangeMmpression upon 
us conyenti'onalrEuropeans in 
/the 'first instance.: JS'or will' 
the; blushes whi€h rose to the 


- 1. Woman's breeclies : u. Man's Indoor dress ; m. 
Woman's indoor dress ; iv. Amulet-strap worn 
by men ; T, * Kamik,' or Eskimo boot ; vi. and 
VII. Knives. 


. ^ 

\ ^ - 


cheeks of some among us when we saw a party of 
young men and women who followed us into the tent 
at once proceed to attire themselves in their indoor 
dress, or, in other words, divest themselves of every 
particle of clothing which they wore, be laid to our 
discredit, when it is remembered that we had been 
accustomed to male society exclusively during our 
voyage and adventures among the ice. The Lapps 
especially were much embarrassed at the unwonted 

The natives now thronged in in numbers, and the 
tent was soon closely packed. We had been at once 
invited to sit down upon some chests which stood by 
the thin skin-curtain at the entrance. These are the 
seats which are always put at the disposal of visitors, 
while the occupants have their places upon the long 
bench or couch which fills the back part of the tent. 
This couch is made of planks, is deep enough to give 
room for a body reclining at full length, and is as 
broad as the whole width of the tent. It is covered 
with several layers of seal-skin, and upon it the 
occiipants spend their whole indoor life, men and 
women alike, sitting often cross-legged as they work, 
and taking their meals and rest and sleep. 

The tent itself is of a very peculiar .construction. 
The • framework consists of a sort of high trestle, 
upon which a number of poles are laid, forming a 

.z 2 


semicircle below, and converging more or less to a 
point at the top. ' Over these poles a double layer of 
skin is stretched, the inner coat with the hair turned 
inwards, and the outer generally consisting of the old 
coverings of boats and ' kayaks.' The entrance is 
under the above-mentioned trestle, which is covered 
by the thin curtain of which I have already spoken. 

This particular tent housed four or five different 
families. Each of them had its own partition marked 
off upon the common couch, and in each of the stalls 
so formed man, wife, and children would be closely 
packed, a four-foot space thus having sometimes to 
accommodate husband, two wives, and six or more 

Before every family stall a train-oil lamp was 
burning with a broad flame. These lamps are flat, 
semicircular vessels of pot-stone, about a foot in 
length. .The wick is made of dried moss, which is 
placed against one side of the lamp and continually 
fed with pieces of fresh blubber, which soon melts 
into oil. The lamps are in charge of the women, 
who have special sticks to manipulate the wicks with, 
to keep them both from smoking and from burning 
too low. Great pots of the same stone hang above, 
and in them the Eskimo cook all their food which 
they do not eat raw. Strange to say, they use neither 
peat nor wood for cooking purposes, though such 


fuel is not difficult to procure. The lamps are kept 
■burning night and day ; they serve for both heating 
•and lighting purposes, for the Eskimo does not sleep 
in the dark, like other people ; and they also serve to 
maintain a permanent odour of train oil, which, as I 
have said, our European senses at first found not 
altogether attractive, but which they soon learned 
not only to tolerate, but to take pleasure in. 

As we sat in a row on the chests, taking stock of 
. our strange surroundings, our hosts began to try and 
entertain us. The use of every object we looked at- 
was kindly explained to us, partly by means of words, 
of which we understood nothing, and partly by actions, 
which were somewhat more within reach of our com- 
prehension. In this way we learned that certain 
wooden racks which hung from the roof were for 
drying clothes on, that the substance cooking • in 
the pots was seal's-flesh, and so on. Then they 
showed us various things which they were evidently 
yery proud of. Some old women opened a bag, for 
instance, and brought out a little bit of Dutch screw- 
tobacco, while a man displayed a knife with a long 
bone-handle. These two things were, no doubt, the 
most notable possessions in the tent, for they were 
' regarded by all the company with especial venera- 
tion. Then they began to explain to us the mutual 
relations of the various occupants of the tent. A 


man embraced a fat woman, and thereupon the pair 
with extreme complacency pointed to some younger 
individuals, the whole pantomime giving us to un- 
derstand that the party together formed a family of 
husband, wife, and children. The man then pro- 
ceeded to stroke his wife down the back and pinch 
her here and there to show us how charming and de- 
lightful she was, and how fond he was of her, the 
process giving her, at the same time, evident satis- 

Curiously enough, none of the men in this parti- 
cular tent seemed to have more than one wife, though 
it is a common thing among the east coast Eskimo 
for a man to keep two if he can afibrd them, though 
never more than two. As a rule the men are good 
to their wives, and a couple may even be seen to kiss 
each other at times, though the process is not carried 
out on European lines, but by a mutual rubbing of 
noses. Domestic strife is, however, not unknown, 
and it sometimes leads to violent scenes, the end of 
which generally is that the woman receives either a 
vigorous castigation or the blade of a knife in her 
arm or leg, after which the relation between the two 
becomes as cordial as ever, especially if the woman 
have children. 

In our tent the best of understandings seemed 
to prevail among the many occupants. Towards us 


they were especially friendly, and talked incessantly, 
though it had long been quite clear to them that 
aU their efforts in this direction were absolutely 
thrown away. One of the elders of the party, who 
was evidently a prominent personage among them, 
and probably an ' angekok' or magician, an old fellow 
with a wily, cunning expression, and a more dignified 
air than the rest, managed to explain .to us with a 
great deal of trouble that some of them had come 
from the north and were going south, while others 
had come from the south and were bound north ; that 
the two parties had met here by accident, that we 
had joined them, and that altogether they did not 
know when they had had such a good time before. 
Then he wanted to know where we had come from, 
but this was not so easily managed. We pointed 
out to sea, and as well as we could tried to make 
them understand that we had forced our way through 
the ice, had reached land further south, and then 
worked up northwards. This information made our 
audience look very doubtful indeed, and another 
chorus of lowing followed, the conclusion evidently 
being that there was something supernatural about us. 
In this way the conversation went on, and, aU things 
considered, we were thoroughly weU entertained, 
though to an outside observer our pantomimic efforts 
would, of course, have seemed extremely comical. 


I will not be rash enough to assert that all the 
faces that surrounded us were indisputably clean. 
Most of them were, no doubt, naturally of a 
yellowish or brownish hue, but how much of the 
colour that we saw in these very swarthy counten- 
ances was really genuine we had no means of 
deciding. In some cases, and especially among, the 
children, the dirt had accumulated to such an extent 
that it was already passing into the stage of a hard 
black crust, which here and there had begun to 
break away and to show the true skin beneath. 
Every face too, with few exceptions, simply glistened 
with blubber. Among, the women, especially the 
younger section, who here as in some other parts 
of the world are incontinently vain, washing is said 
to be not uncommon, and Holm even accuses them 
of being very clean. But as to the exact nature of 
the process which leads to this result it will perhaps 
be better for me to say no more. 

It might be supposed that the surroundings and 
habits of these people, to which I have already 
referred, together with many other practices, which I 
have thought it better not to specify, would have an 
extremely repellent effect upon the stranger. But 
this is by no means the case when one has once 
overcome the first shock, which the eccentricity of 
their ways is sure to cause, when one has ceased to 


notice such things as the irrepressible tendency of 
their hands "to plunge into the jungle of their hair in 
hot pursuit, as their dirt-encrusted faces — a point on 
which, I may remark, we ourselves in our then con- 


{From a photograph tal-en by (he Danish ' Konebaad' ex f edition') 

dition had little right to speak— and as the strange 
atmosphere in which they live ; and if one is careful 
at first not to look too closely into their methods of 
preparing food, the general impression received is 


absolutely attractive. There is a frank and homely- 
geniality in all their actions which is very winning, 
( and can only make the stranger feel thoroughly- com- 
fortable in their society. 

"People's notions on the subject of good looks vary 
so much that it is difficult to come to a satisfactory 
determination with regard to these Eskimo. If we 
'bind ourselves down to any established ideal of 
beauty, such as, for instance, the Venus of Milo, the 
question is soon settled. The east coast of Greenland, 
it must be confessed, is not rich in types of this kind. 
But if we can only make an effort and free our 
critical faculty from a standard which has been 
forced upon it by the influences of superstition and 
heredity, and can only agree to allow that the thing 
which attracts us, and on which we look with de- 
light, for these very reasons possesses the quality of 
beauty, then the problem becomes very much more 
difficult of solution. I have no doubt that, were 
one to live with these people for a while and grow 
accustomed to them, one would soon find many a 
pretty face and many an attractive feature among 

As it was, indeed, we saw more than one face 
which a European taste would allow to be pretty. 
There was one woman especially who reminded me 
vividly of an acknowledged beauty at home in 


Norway, and not only I, but one of my companions 
-who happened to know the prototype, was greatly 
struck, by the likeness. The faces of these Eskimo 
are as a rule round, with broad, outstanding jaws, 

{Sy E. Melsen, from a photograph taken hy the Danish ' Konebaad ' expedition') 

and are, in the case of the women especially, very 
fat, the cheeks being particularly exuberant. The 
eyes are dark and often set a little obliquely, while 
the nose is flat, narrow above and broad below. ■ The 
whole face often looks as if it had been compressed 


from the front and forced to make its growth from 
the sides. Among the women, and more especially 
the children, the face is so flat that one could almost 
lay a ruler across from cheek to cheek without 
touching the nose ; indeed now and again one will see 
a child whose nose really forms a depression in the 
face rather than the reverse. It will be understood 
from this that many of these people show no signs 
of approaching the European standard of good 
looks, but it is not exactly in this direction that the 
Eskimo's attractions, generally speaking, really lie. 
At the same time there is something kindly, genial, 
and complacent in his stubby, dumpy, oily features 
which is quite irresistible. 

Their hands and feet alike are unusually small 
and well-shaped. Their hair is absolutely black, 
and quite straight, resembling horse-hair. The men 
often tie it back from the forehead with a string of 
beads and leave it to fall down over the shoulders. 
Some who have no such band have it cut above the 
forehead or round the whole head with the jawbone 
of a shark, as their superstitions will not allow them 
on any account to let iron come into contact with it, 
even when the doubtful course of having it cut at 
all has been resolved upon. But, curiousty enough, a. 
man who has begun to cut his hair in his youth must 
necessarily continue the practice all his life. The 


women gather their hair up from behind and tie it 
with a strip of seal-skin into a cone, which must 
stand as perpendicularly as possible. This conven- 
tion is, of course, especially stringent in the case of 
the young unmarried women, who, to obtain the 
desired result, tie their hair back from the forehead 
and temples so tightly that by degrees it gradually 
gives way and they become bald at a very early age. 
A head which has felt the effects of this treatment is 
no attractive sight, but the victim in such cases has 
generally been a long time married and settled in life, 
and the disadvantage is therefore not so keenly felt. 

After we had been sitting in the tent for a while 
one of the elders of the company, the old man with 
the unattractive expression, of whom I have already 
spoken, rose and went out. Presently he came in 
again with a long line of seal-skin, which, as he 
sat on the bench, he began to unroll. I regarded 
this performance with some wonder, as I could 
not imagine what was going to happen. Then he 
brought out a knife, cut off a long piece, and, rising, 
gave it to one of us. Then he cut off another piece 
of equal length and gave it to another, and the 
process was repeated till we aU six were alike 
provided. When he had finished his distribution he 
smiled and beamed at us, in his abundant satisfaction 
with himself and the world at large. Then another 


of them went out, came back with a similar hne, and 
distributed it in like manner ; whereupon a third 
followed his example, and so the game was kept 
going till we were each of us provided with four or 
five pieces of seal-skin line. Poor things ! they gave 
us what they could, and what they thought would 
be useful to us. It was the kind of line they use, 
when seal-catching, to connect the point of the 
harpoon to the bladder which prevents the seal from 
escaping, and it is astonishingly strong. 

After this exhibition of liberality we sat for a 
time looking at one another, and I expected that our 
hosts would show by signs their desire for something 
in return. After a while, too, the old man did get up 
and produce something which he evidently kept as a 
possession of great price and rarity. It was nothing 
else than a clumsy, rusty old rifle, with the strangest 
contrivance in the way of a hammer that it has ever 
been my good luck to see. It consisted of a huge, 
unwieldy piece of iron, in which there was a finger- 
hole to enable the user to cock it. As I afterwards 
found, this is the ordinary form of rifle on the west 
coast of Greenland, and it is specially constructed for 
use in the ' kayak.' After the old man had shown us 
this curiosity, and we had duly displayed our admira- 
tion, he made us understand by some very unmis- 
takable gestures that he had nothing to put in it. 


At first I pretended not to grasp his meaning, but, 
this insincerity being of no avail, I was obliged to 
make it plain to him that we had nothing to give 
him in the way of ammunition. This intimation he 
received with a very disappointed and dejected air, 
and he went at once and put his rifle away. 

None of the others showed by the slightest token 
that they expected anything in return for their pre- 
sents. They were all friendliness and hospitality, 
though no doubt there was a notion lurking some- 
where in the background that their liberality would 
not prove unproductive, and, of course, we did not 
fail to fulfil our share of the transaction next day. 
The hospitality, indeed, of this desolate coast is quite 
unbounded. A man will receive his worst enemy, 
treat him well, and entertain him for months, if cir- 
cumstances throw him in his way. The nature of 
their surroundings and the wandering life which 
they lead have forced them to ofier and accept 
universal hospitality, and the habit has gradually 
become a law among them. 

After we considered we had been long enough 
in the tent we went out into the fresh air again, and 
chose as our camping-ground for the night a flat 
ledge of rock close to the landing-place. We then 
began to bring our things ashore, but at once a 
crowd of natives rushed for our boats, and numbers 


of hands were soon husj moving our boxes and bags 
up on to the rocks. Every object caused an admir- 
ing outburst, and our willing helpers laughed and 
shouted in their glee, and altogether enjoyed them- 
selves amazingly. The delight and admiration that 
greeted the big tin boxes in which much of our 
provender was packed were especially ■ unmanage- 
able, and the tins were each passed round from hand 
to hand, and evei^y edge and corner carefully and 
minutely examined. 

As soon as the boats were empty we proposed to 
drag them up, but here again all insisted on giving 
their help. The painter was brought ashore, manned 
by a long line stretching far up the rocks, and the 
boats hauled up each by the united efforts of twenty 
or thirty men. This was splendid sport, and when 
one of us started the usual sailors' chorus to get them 
to work together, the enthusiasni reached its height. 

They joined in, grown folk and children alike, 
and laughed till they could scarcely pull. They 
plainly thought us the most amusing lot of people 
they had ever seen. When the boats were safe 
ashore we proceeded to pitch our tent, an operation 
which engaged all their attention, for nothing can 
interest an Eskimo so much as any performance 
which belongs to his own mode of life, such as the 
management of tents and boats and such things. 


Here their astonishment does not overcome them, for 
they can fully understand what is going on. In this 
case they could thus admire to the full the speedy 
way in which we managed to pitch our little tent, 
which was so much simpler a contrivance than their 

(,Fnm a photograph) 

great complicated wigwams, though, at the sama 
time it was not so warm. 

Our clothes too, and, above all, the Lapps' dress, 
came in for their share of admiration. The tall, square 
caps with their four horns, and the tunics with their 
long, wide skirts and edging of red and yellow, struck 

VOL. I. A A 


them as most remarkable, but still more astonished 
were they, of course, in the evening, when the two 
Lapps made their appearance in their reindeer-skin 
pelisses. All must needs go and feel them and 
examine them, and stroke the hair of this wonderful 
skin, nothing like which they had ever seen before. 
It was not seal-skin, it was not bear-skin, nor was it 
fox-skin. ' Could it be dog-skin?' they asked, point- 
ing to their canine companions. When we explained 
that it was nothing of that kind they could get no 
further, for their powers of imagination had reached 
their limit. Balto now began to gibber and make 
some very significant movements with his hands 
about his head, with the idea of representing rein- 
deer horns, but this awoke no response. Evidently 
they had never seen reindeer, which do not occur 
on that part of the east coast which they frequent. 

Then we distributed the evening rations, and ate 
our supper sitting at the tent-door, and surrounded 
by spectators. Men, women, and children stood 
there in a ring many ranks deep, closely watching 
the passage of every morsel of biscuit to our lips and 
its subsequent consumption. Though their mouths 
watered to overflowing at the sight of these luxuries, 
we were constrained to take no notice. "We had no 
more in the way of bread than we actually needed, 
and, had we made a distribution throughout all this 


hungry crowd, our store would have been much 
reduced. But to sit there and devour one's biscuits 
under the fire of all their eyes was not pleasant. 

Our meal over, we went and had a look round 
the encampment. Down by the water were a 
number of ' kayaks ' and a few specimens of the 
' umiak ' or large skin-boat, which especially in- 
terested me. One of the men was particularly 
anxious to show me everything. Whatever caught 
my eye, he at once proceeded to explain the use of 
by signs and gestures. Above all, he insisted on my 
examining his own ' kayak,' which was handsomely 
ornamented with bone, and all his weapons, which 
were in excellent condition and profusely decorated. 
His great pride was his harpoon, which, as he showed 
me triumphantly, had a long point of narwhal tusk. 
He explained to me, too, very clearly the use of the 
throwing-stick, and how much additional force could 
be given to the -harpoon by its help. Every Eskimo 
is especially proud of his weapons and ' kayak,' and 
expends a large amount of work on their adornment. 
By this time the sun had set and the night fallen, 
and consequently the elements of weirdness and 
unreality which had all the time pervaded this scene, 
with its surroundings of snow and ice and curious 
human adjuncts, were now still more predominant 
and striking. Dark forms flitted backwards and 

A A 2 


forwards among the rocks, and the outlines of the 
women with their babies on their backs were espe- 
cially picturesque. Prom every tent-door through 
the transparent curtain shone a red glow of Ught, 
which, with its suggestions of warmth and com- 
fort, led the fancy to very different scenes. The re- 
semblance to coloured lamps and Chinese lanterns 
brought to one's mind the illuminated gardens and 
summer festivities away at home, but behind these 
curtains here lived a happy and contented race, 
quite as happy, perhaps, as any to which our 
thoughts turned across the sea. 

Then bed-time drew near, and the rest we sorely 
needed after the scanty sleep of the last few days. 
So we spread ojir sleeping-bags upon the tent-floor 
and began the usual preparations. But here again 
our movements aroused the keenest interest, and a 
deep ring of onlookers soon gathered round the door. 
The removal of our garments was watched with 
attention by men and women alike, and with no sign 
of embarrassment, except on our part. Our disappear- 
ance one by one into the bags caused the most amuser 
ment, and when at last the. expedition had no more 
to show than six heads the door of the tent was 
drawn to and the final ' Good-night ' said. 

That night we could sleep free from care and 
without keeping watch, and it was a good night's 


rest we had, in spite of barking dogs and other 
disturbances. It was late when we woke and heard 
the Eskimo moving busily about outside. Peeping 
through the chinks of the door, we could see them 
impatiently pacing up and down, and waiting for the 
tent to be thrown open again that they might once 
more feast their eyes on 
all the marvels hidden 
inside. We noticed to- 
day, and we supposed it 
was in our honour, that 
they were all arrayed in 
their best clothes. Their 
clean white frocks, made 
of the same thin mem- 
branous skin as the 
tent curtains, shone as 
brilliantly as clean linen 
in the distance, as their 
wearers walked up and 
down and admired their own magnificence. Down 
by our boats, too, we saw a whole congregation, 
some sitting inside and others standing round. 
Every implement and every fitting was handled 
and carefully scrutinised, but nothing disturbed or 

Then came the opening of the door, and forth- 

{From an instantaneom pJwtograpli) 



with a closely packed ring of spectators gathered 
round, head appearing above head, and row behind 
row, to see us lying in our bags, our exit thence, and 
gradual reinstatement in our clothes. Of all our 
apparel that which excited most wonder and asto- 

(From a photoffrapJi) 

nishment was a coloured belt of Kristiansen's, a belt 
resplendent with beads and huge brass buckle. This 
must needs be handled and examined by each and all 
in turn, and of course produced the usual concerted 
bellow. Then our breakfast of biscuits and water was 
consumed in the same silence and amid the same 


breathless interest' as our supper of the night 
before. * 

After breakfast we walked about the place, for 
we had determined to enjoy Ufe for this one 
morning and see what we could of these people 
before we left them. I had tried, unnoticed, to take 


(^From a pholograpli) 

a photograph of the ring which thronged 'our tent- 
door, but as I brought the camera to bear upon the 
crowd some of them saw my manoeuvre, and a stam- 
pede began,- as if they feared a discharge of missiles 
or other sorcery from the apparatus. I now tried to 
catch a group who were sitting on the rocks, but 



again with the same result. So the only expedient 
was to turn my face away, and by pretending to be 
otherwise engaged to distract the attention of my 
victims and meanwhile secure some pictures. 

Then I took a tour round the camping-ground 
with m-y camera. Outside one little tent, which stood 

i^By E. Nielsen, from a photograph') 

somewhat isolated, I found an unusually sociable 
woman, apparently the mistress of the establishment. 
She was relatively young, of an attractive appear- 
ance altogether, with a smiling face and a pair of soft, 
obliquely set eyes, which she made use of in a particu- 
larly arch and engaging way. Her dress was certainly 


not elegant, but this defect was, no doubt, due to her 

estabhshed position as a married woman, and must 

not be judged too harshly. In her ' amaut,' a 

garment which forms a kind of hood or bag behind, 

she had a swarthy baby, which she seemed very fond 

of, and which, like many of 

the mothers, she did her best 

to induce to open its black 

eyes and contemplate my iii- 

significance. This was partly, 

no doubt, the flattery of the 

coquette ; on the whole we got 

on very well together, and un- 

perceived I secured several 

pho togr aphs . Then the master 

came out of the tent, and 

showed no sign of surprise at 

finding his wife in so close 

converse with a stranger. He 

had evidently been asleep, for 

he could hardly keep his eyes 

open in the light, and had to 

resort to a shade, or rather some big snow-spectacles 

of wood. He was a strongly-built man, with an 

honest, straightforward look, was very friendly, and 

showed me a number of his things. He was especially 

proud of his ' kayak '-hat, which he insisted on my 



(^From a photograph'} 


putting on my head, while he meantime unceremo- 
niously arrayed himself in my cap. This performance 
was little to my taste, as it was quite uncertain what 
would be the result of the exchange to me. Then he 
took me to see his big boat or ' umiak,' as well as 
other of his possessions, and we parted. 

I went on, and looked into some other tents. In 
one of them I found two girls who had just taken a 
big gull out of a cooking-pot, and were beginning to- 
devour it, each at work with her teeth on one end of 
the body, and both beaming with delight and self- 
satisfaction. The bird still had most of its feathers 
on, but that did not seem to trouble them much. 
Perhaps, after the manner of the owl, they subse- 
quently ejected them. 

Some of the women had noticed that the Lapps 
used the peculiar grass known as ' sennegrses,' of 
which I have already spoken, in their boots, and they 
now brought each of us a huge supply of the com- 
modity, smiling most coquettishly as they made their 
offering. We expressed our thanks, of course, by an 
equally lavish display of smiles. Then they began 
to inquire, by means of signs, whether we had no 
needles to give them in return. I could have grati- 
fied them, certainly, since I had brought a number of 
these articles of barter, which are much prized on the 
east coast. But my real object was to keep them in 


case we had to spend the winter in these parts, in 
which case they would have proved invaluable. So 
I told them that we could not let them have any 
needles in exchange for their grass, and gave them 
instead a tin which had had preserved meat in. This 
made them simply wild with 
delight, and with sparkling 
eyes they went off to show the 
others their new acquisition. 
The grass came in very handy 
for the two Lapps, whose store 
was running short, and with- 
out this grass in his shoes a 
Lapp is never thoroughly com- 
fortable. They had a deal to 
say, too, about this Eskimo 
'sennegrses.' The fact that 
these people had sense enough 
to use the grass impressed 
Eavna and Balto to a certain 
extent, but they declared it 
had been gathered at the wrong time of year, being 
winter grass taken with the frost on it, instead of 
being cut fresh and then dried, in accordance with 
the practice of rational beings. It was of little 
use to point out to them that it was not the 
habit of the Eskimo to lay up greater stores of 


{From a photograph) 


such things than he actually needed to keep him 

But the time of our departure drew near, and we 
began by degrees to make our preparations. A man 
now came up to us and asked whether we were 
going northwards. At our answer in the affirmative 
his face brightened amazingly, and it proved that 
he was bound in the same direction with his party, 
to whom he went at once and announced the news. 
The camp was now a scene of lively confusion, and, 
while we and the Eskimo vied with one another in our 
haste to strike our tents, launch our boats, and stow 
our goods, the dogs, who well knew what was in pro- 
gress, expended their energy in a howling competition. 

As the tent we had spent the preceding evening 
in was going southwards, it was necessary that we 
should go and make some return for the presents we 
had received. So with a number of empty meat-tins 
I went in and found a party of half-naked men 
taking a meal. I gave them one each, which 
delighted them hugely, and some of them at once 
showed their intention of using them as drinking- 
vessels. Outside I found the possessor of the rifle, 
who again urged upon me the fact that he had no 
ammunition for it. But when I presented him with 
a large tin instead he expressed perfect contentment 
and gratification. 


The great skin-tents were soon down and packed 
away in the boats. It was indeed quite astonishing 
to see the speed with which these Eskimo made 
ready for a journey with all their household goods 
and worldly possessions, though, of course, there were 
a great number of helping hands. We had almost 
finished our preparations too, when a salt-box was 
pleased to discharge its contents in the middle of one 
of the provision-bags. This had to be seen to at 
once, and the Eskimo consequently started before us. 
Two of the boats set off on their southward journey, 
and two more presently disappeared behind the first 
point of" rock to the north. The company of 
'kayakers,' however, were still left, as they stayed 
behind to bid each other a more tender farewell, 
before they parted, perhaps, for a separation of some 
years. This leave-taking gave, rise to 'diie of the 
most comical scenes I have ever witnessed. There 
were altogether a dozen or more of their little canoes, 
and they aU now ranged up side by side, dressed as 
evenly as a squad of soldiers. This extraordinary 
manoeuvre roused my attention, of course, and' 1 
could not imagine what it purported. I was not left 
long in ignorance, however, for the snuff-horns were 
presently produced, and the most extravagant 
excesses followed. The horns were opened and 
thrust up their noses again and again, till every 


nostril must have been absolutely filled with snuff. 
Several horns were in circulation, and each came 
at least twice to every man, so that the quantity 
consumed may well be imagined. I w^anted to 
photograph them, but lost time and could not bring 
my camera to bear upon them before the line was 


(^From a photograph) 

broken, and some of the canoes already speeding 
away southwards among the floes. 

This general treating with snuff is the mode in 
which the Eskimo take leave of one another, and is 
a very similar performance to the ceremonious dram- 
drinking among our peasants at home. In this par- 


ticular case only those who had come from the south 
had anything to stand treat with. They were 
evidently fresh from the Danish colonies beyond 
Cape Farewell, as their abundant supply of snufF 
proved, while the others were probably bound south 
on a similar errand. These pilgrimages occur Un- 
fortunately too often, thoUgh their emporium lies at 
no trifling distance — a couple of years' journey, in 
fact,' for those who live furthest up the coast. 

One would almost expect that so long a journey 
would be followed by a long stay at the place of 
business. But this is not the case, and the Eskimo, 
in fact, spends little more time over his periodical 
shopping than a lady of the world over a similar, 
but daily, visit. In half an hour, or an hour perhaps^ 
he has often finished, and then disappears again on his. 
long journey honie. A shopping expedition of' this. 
kind will therefore often take four years at least, and 
consequently a man's opportunities in this way in 
the course of a lifetime are very limited. These are 
quite enough, however, to produce a mischievous 
effect. One is apt to suppose that it is the want of 
certain useful things, otherwise unattainable, that 
urges them to these long journeys ; but this is 
scarcely so, for the real incentive is without doubt a. 
craving for tobacco. As a matter of fact they da 
buy some useful things, like iron, which they get 


chiefly in the form of old hoops, but they really 
have a good supply of such things already, they do 
not use them much, and they are not absolutely 
necessary. Most of their purchases are things 
which are either altogether valueless or else actually 

Among the latter must especially be reckoned 
tobacco, which is the commodity of all others most 
desired, and which they take in the form of snuff. 
Smoking and chewing are unknown on this coast, but 
their absence is made up for by all the greater excess in 
snuff-taking, the indulgence in which is quite pheno- 
menal. They buy their tobacco in the form of twist, 
and prepare it themselves, by drying it well, break- 
ing it up, and grinding it fine on stone. Powdered 
calcspar or quartz or other rock is often added to the 
snuflf to make it go farther and to increase, it is said, 
the irritating effect upon the mucous membrane. 

In addition to tobacco they buy other things 
which certainly have an injurious effect upon them, 
such as, for instance, tea. Coffee, curiously enough, 
these people have not learned to like, though this 
drink is bliss celestial to the west-coast Eskimo. 

It is truly fortunate that they have no oppor- 
tunity of getting spirits, as the sale is absolutely 
prohibited by the Danish Government. Of other 
European products, they buy biscuits, flour, peas. 


which they are particularly fond of, and similar 
things. Articles of clothing, too, are in great de- 
mand, such as thick jerseys froni the Faroe Islands, 
cotton stuffs for outer tunics, and material out of 
which they can make hats ; old European clothes 
are highly valued, and they have an idea that when 
they can dress themselves out in these worn-out, 
rubbishy garments they cut a far finer figure than 
when they content themselves with their own warm 
and becoming dress of seal-skin. 

In exchange for such things, which are of little 
value to us and of still less real worth to them, they 
give fine large bear-skins, fox-skins, and seal-skins, 
which they ought to keep for their own clothes and 
the other numerous purposes for which they can be 
used. It is, of course, unnecessary to reniark how 
much better it would be if these poor Eskimo, in- 
stead of decking themselves out in European rags, 
would keep their skins for themselves, and confine 
themselves to those regions where they have their 
homes, instead of straying to the outskirts of Euro- 
pean luxury and civilisation. 

Many may think that this access to vegetable 
food is an advantage for the Eskimo, and possibly it 
would be if he had the chance of regularly supply- 
ing himself with flour and such things in small 
quantities. But, as the opportunity only occurs 

VOL. I. B B 


perhaps a few times in the course of a man's life, 
the value of such a change of diet is, of course, very- 
small. The effect, indeed, may very well be the oppo- 
site of beneficial, inasmuch as these Eskimo, when 
they do get European victuals into their possession, 
impose no restraint upon their appetites, but eat 
like wolves as long as the supply lasts, and an un- 
wonted indulgence of this kind may easily produce 
serious internal disturbances. 

There is a story current which well shows the 
beneficent effect of European fare upon the Eskimo 
stomach. A boat's crew of east-coast pilgrims had 
paid their visit to one of the trading places near 
Cape Farewell, and had, among other things, bought 
a quantity of peas. They were already on their 
homeward journey, and had put in to a little island 
for the purpose of cooking some of their peas and 
enjoying their first meal, They set their peas to 
boil, but, with the scantiness of experience only to 
be expected of them, they had no idea of the time 
necessary for the process, and set to work upon the 
peas while they were yet half-cooked. Now, the 
Eskimo are commonly reputed to eat at times even 
beyond the limits of ordinary repletion, and these 
poor folk no doubt continued the indulgence as long 
as their powers allowed them. But, as everyone 
knows, half-cooked peas have a most uncomfortable 


tendenc}'' to swell as moisture gradually penetrates 
them. These peas proved too much for the Eskimo, 
and the consequence was that not long afterwards 
the whole company of victims to Eui?bpean food 
were found dead upon the island. 

This story is declared to be a matter of common 
knowledge, but, whether it be a fact or not, there is 
nothing at all improbable about it, and it is a good 
illustration of the benefits likely to result from access 
to foreign articles of food. Though the consequences 
need not be at all so disastrous as on this occasion, 
still the real benefit can be but slight. When the 
Eskimo have at length consumed their purchases and 
must needs return to the old manner of life, the net 
result is that they have lost a number of useful 
possessions and have acquired a feeling of want 
and longing for a number of unnecessary things. 
This is, in fact, the usual way that the blessings 
of civilisation first make themselves felt upon the 




When we were at last ready to start, all tlie 
' kayakers ' liad disappeared except one, who, no 
doubt, wished to show us the civility of escorting 
us. Our surroundings were now just as empty and 
desolate as an hour ago they had been full of life 
and movement. Instead of on tents and dogs and 
human beings, the sun now shone down upon ice and 
snow and barren rocks. 

We embarked and set off northwards along the 
coast. At first the water was open, and we worked 
hard at our oars, for the Eskimo boats had a sub- 
stantial start, and as we hoped to profit largely by 
their knowledge of the water and ice, we were 
anxious to travel in their company. It was not long 
before we came up with them, and found them lying 
under shelter of a point of land, and apparently in 
difficulties. Some women stood up in one of the 
boats and waved to us. When we came nearer we 
were desired by the help of signs to go on in front and 
force a passage through the ice. This was certainly 


in direct contradiction to our hopes and specula- 
tions, but of course we went to the front, and glided 
quietly by them in between two huge floes, which 
lay locked together and looked immovable. This 
was the obstacle which had brought the Eskimo to 
a standstill. But when we drove our first boat in 
between the two floes, and partly by using it as a 
wedge, partly by the help of our poles with all six 
men at work, really managed to force the two 
monsters apart, the admiration of our friends knew 
no limit, and was expressed in the usual extra- 
ordinary way. We now pushed on, breaking 
through the ice, which here caused no great diffi- 
culty. The two big boats followed, with four 
' kayaks ' in close attendance. Every movement on 
our part was accompanied by a sustained and 
vigorous bellow from behind, which was encourag- 
ing, though it was not the most melodious music we 
could' have wished for. , 

We were much amused to see the ' kayakers ' 
taking snuff". One of them especially was insatiable, 
and I believe he stopped every ten minutes to pull 
out his huge smiff'-horn and fill both his nostrils. 
He sneezed, too, sometimes so violently that it was 
a mystery to me how he managed to keep his canoe 
on an even keel during his convulsions. When he 
looked at us again after one of these sneezes, with 


his upper lip covered with, snuif and the tears 
trickling from his eyes, his jovial face was so in- 
estimably comical that every time we saluted him 
with shouts of laughter, in answer to which he 
nodded, smiled, and beamed with good humour. 
Then, too, they kept shouting from time to time the 
only word of their language which we managed to 
fix, and this, too, by the way, we fixed slightly 
wrong. It was ' pitsakase,' and meant, as we ima- 
gined, ' a splendid journey ! ' or something of the 
kind, as it was ejaculated on all occasions, as well 
when we forced our way through the ice as when we 
were rowing along in open water. But when we 
reached the west coast we learnt of the Eskimo 
there — whose language is much the same — that the 
word really means ' How clever you are ! ' or some- 
times ' How good (or kind) you are ! ' 

The larger boats used by the Eskimo, which 
have often been referred to already, and are called 
by them ' umiaks,' are, as I have said, only manned 
by women. Among Eskimo of pure blood it is 
considered beneath a .man's dignity to row in one 
of these boats. But a man — in most cases the head 
of the household — must do the steering ; and this 
duty is incumbent on him, much as he would prefer 
to be in his ' kayak.' These ' umiaks ' are of con- 
siderable length, extending to thirty feet or even 


more, though they are, as a rule, longer on the west 
coast of Greenland than on the east, where, owing 
to the prevalence of drifting ice, a short boat is, of 
course, hot so difficult to manoeuvre as a longer one, 
unhandy as these boats are in any case in such 

The women who manned the two boats which 
followed us rowed in a most extraordinary fashion, 
and not to any regular stroke. They began at a 
moderately fast rate, but the stroke was presently 
quickened, and then quickened again, growing 
shorter and shorter, of course, at each increase. As 
they puUed, too, they rose from their seats and stood 
upright in the boat in the middle of each stroke, 
and the whole performance was consequently of a 
very spasmodic and jumpy character. Then, sud- 
denly, just as the bucketing had reached an ' allegro 
vivace ' pitch, there was an ' easy all ' : the rowers 
rested to regain their wind, and then the same per- 
formance was gone through again. One of these 
buckets was, of course, only of very short duration, 
but there was a never-failing supply of them ; and 
in this unorthodox way they really managed to get 
along pretty fast. In open water they quite kept 
pace with us, or often even passed us ; which is not, 
however, to be wondered at, as we had only two 
men at the oars in each boat, while they had as 



many as six or seven. Once something delayed 
us, and our companions went on ahead. When we 

caught them up we found that they had again 
been stopped by the ice, and some of the women 


were making signals to bring us to their help. We 
then came up with our long boat-hooks, as usual, 
and could scarcely help laughing when we found 
a single Eskimo standing and pushing valiantly at 
a, huge ice-floe with a little stick. He looked so 
infinitely powerless and absurd as he stood there 
alone, and, of course, it had not struck the other 
men and women in the boats to come and help him., 
We now brought aU hands to bear as usual, and the 
floes were forced, to give way. We got through and 
pushed on, but the long boats were caught behind us, 
and only struggled through with some difficulty. 
This, indeed, happened again and again, that the 
longer boats were stuck in the channel which we, 
with our shorter boats, had just made for them. For 
this reason we might have pushed on a long way 
ahead, if we had not waited for the others. That 
such should be the case with these much and often 
praised Eskimo boats, without which Holm and 
Garde declare a voyage up the east "coast out of the 
question, was a matter of no small surprise to me. 

This has long been the view held by the Danes. 
They have had little or no actual experience in the 
navigation of such watBrs as these ; and, taking it 
for granted that among the floes the Eskimo can have 
no equals, they ha,ve insisted that the peculiar 
Eskimo boats must be the best type for the purpose. 


and at the same time that they must be manned by 
Eskimo crews. My experience leads me to the very 
opposite conclusion, and I am convinced that Euro- 
pean boats, with good European crews who are 
accustomed to the sort of thing, are far to be pre- 
ferred for this work. Nor is there any truth in the 
assertion which has been made that European boats 
cannot carry enough to serve the purpose. 

It was now getting time for us to have a meal, 
and we accordingly had to distribute the rations. 
The Eskimo, who have a remarkable power of resist- 
ing hunger, meanwhile pushed on. Two of the 
' kayakers,' however, stayed behind to watch us 
eating. We gave them some pieces of biscuit, which 
delighted them immensely. Then we started again 
and soon came within sight of the others. Two of 
the men we saw had climbed high up on the rocks 
on a point beyond Ends Island and were looking out 
northwards over the sea and ice. This was a bad 
sign and meant, perhaps, that the ice was impassable. 
Meanwhile the others went on, and before we caught 
them up we had to pass the mouth of the fjord which 
lies between the island and the mainland. It now 
began to look like bad weather, the sky was darken- 
ing and rain beginning to fall. We put oh our 
waterproofs and pushed hopefully on, but had not 
gone far before we saw the Eskimo boats coming 


back to meet us. When they neared us all the 

women pointed to the sky with very grave faces, 

while the men explained that the ice was packed 

badly on ahead. They insisted that we must put 

back to the island and encamp there for the time 

being. I, however, made them understand that we 

wanted to go on, but they represented to me that 

this was impossible. I had my doubts about the 

impossibility, but thought it better not to proceed 

tiU I had been ashore and seen with my own eyes 

how things looked. So we all turned back to land, 

the Eskimo boats keeping inside the island, while we 

made for the nearest point. One of the ' kayakers ' 

who saw our design followed us to apply aU his 

powers of persuasion, as far as signs would aUow. 

It was not to much purpose, however, for as soon as 

we reached the shore, I ran up on to a rock, and 

when, by the help of the glasses, I saw that the water 

looked fairly promising on ahead, we made up our 

minds then and there to push on at once. When our 

friend found that his eloquence was of no avail he 

went away with a very dejected air. HowcA^er, we 

gave him a tin for a parting gift, and this seemed to 

alleviate his sorrow to no little extent. No doubt 

the rain was the real cause of the Eskimo's retreat. 

They did not seem to like the idea of getting wet, 

especially the women, several of whom had babies on 


their backs. It is not to be wondered at that they 
tried to induce us to encamp with them, for we were 
of course beings of much too wonderful a nature for 
them to lose any opportunity of enjoying our enter- 
taining society, and it was not at all impossible 
besides that a certain amount of profit of a more 
material kind would accrue to them from the asso- 

So we proceeded on our way, not a little proud, 
it must be confessed, of the fact that we were con- 
tinuing our journey when the natives, who knew the 
water, had given up the attempt. Por a long time, 
too, all went well and our confidence increased. But 
when we reached the middle of the fjord which we 
were now crossing we discovered that it was not all 
child's play. The ice was here packed rather close 
and a tearing current was playing with the great 
floes in a very unpleasant way. These monsters 
were now crashing one against the other, now float- 
ing apart again, and we had to be more than usually 
careful to keep, our boats from getting crushed. The 
farther we got, too, the worse things looked. Once 
we were just between two long floes ; they were 
driven violently together by the movements of their 
neighbours, and it was only by a very rapid retreat 
that we saved ourselves. Late in the evening, how- 
ever, we reached the other side of the inlet in good 


order, but here the shore was so steep that it was 
no easy matter to find a camping-place. But we 
presently came across a cleft in the rock, which gave 
us just enough room to haul up the boats by the 
help of the hoisting-tackle which we had with us. 
Higher up again in the cliff side was a ledge just big 

{From a photograpli) 

enough to hold our tent. The whole position was 
eminently suggestive of an eyrie, and ' The Eagle's 
Nest ' we consequently named it. The Eskimo name 
is Ingerkajarfik and the place lies in lat. 62° 10' JST.. 
and long. 42° 12' W. 

The ledge which formed our camping-ground was 


not the most convenient sleeping-place I have known. 
It sloped to such an extent that when we woke next 
morning, after an excellent night's rest nevertheless, 
we found ourselves all lying in a heap at one side of 
the tent. 

Next day again we had glorious sunny weather. 
Just to the south of us a huge glacier stretched far 
out into the sea, and its blue masses, torn and rent 
by crevasses, played ehchantingly in the sunlight. 
After a hearty breakfast we lowered our boats again 
and loaded them, and then, having taken a photograph 
of the view to the south, we started on our way 
through fairly open water. There were floes every- 
where, but they did not lie close, and without any 
great difficulty we were able to wind in and out 
among them. 

A little past noon we reached a small island off 
Mogens Heinesens Fjord, and put in to shore in an 
excellent harbour to have our dinner. This little 
island seemed to us the loveliest spot we had ever 
seen on the face of the earth. All was green here ; 
there was grass, heather, sorrel, and numbers of 
bright flowers. Up at the top we found the ruins of 
two old Eskimo houses, and here the vegetation was 
most luxuriant. It was a simple paradise, and won- 
derfully delightful we found it to lie here stretched 
on the greensward in the full blaze of the sun and 


roast ourselves to our heart's content, while we en- 
joyed the rare pleasure of a short rest. Then we 
gathered a few flowers in memory of this little 
Greenland idyll, and taking to the boats again re- 
sumed our northward journey. 

The coast we had been passing along hitherto is 
not remarkable for any beauty of outline or mountain 
forms. It is low, monotonous, and chilling. As a 
rule the snow and ice of the glaciers come right 
down into the sea, and, as the map shows, there are 
comparatively few places where the low, grey rocks 
appear above the snow. 

This afternoon, however, after we had passed the 
opening of Mogens Heinesens Fjord, which lies in a 
ring of fine, wild peaks, we came into a landscape of 
an entirely different character. Nowhere here did the 
snow-fields or glaciers stretch down to the sea ; alL 
along we found bare ground and rocks, the latter often 
rising out of the water to considerable heights ; and 
inland, especially to the north, we had glorious moun- 
tain views of peak rising behind peak and range 
behind range ; and such was the coast continuously 
to Igdloluarsuk, an unbroken, but ever- varying scene 
of wildness and beauty. Everything in this world is. 
relative, and thus we seemed to ourselves to have now 
entered into a more fertile, more genial region. A 
warmer, kindlier sun even seemed to beam upon our 


existence. Even in the midst of the ice-floes our 
minds were now open to thoughts of summer and 
suinmer moods, now that we had bare rock to look 
at instead of everlasting ice and snow. The change 
for us would scarcely have been much more complete 
if we had been suddenly transported to the most 
fruitful regions of the earth. Far to the north, too, 
we riow saw the blue peaks of Tingmiarmiut beck- 
oning and enticing us as it were to the land of 

As we advanced we met more and more huge ice- 
bergs, many of which lay stranded along the shore. 
Towards evening we saw by some small islands off 
Nagtoralik some most extraordinary white peaks, or 
rather spires, rising above the horizon. Their form 
was so singular that for a long time I could not 
imagine what they were, but I eventually discovered 
that they were the pinnacles of a colossal iceberg" of 
the most fantastic appearance that I have ever seen. 
I took a distant photograph of it, but this gives abso- 
lutely no idea of its overwhelming magnitude and the 
impression it made upon us as we passed bfeneath it. 
From its top rose two points like slender church 
spires high into the air. Far up on its cliff-like side 
was a huge hole passing like a tunnel through the 
whole mass of ice ; and down below, the sea had 
hollowed grottoes so large that a small ship could 


readily have ridden within their shelter. In these 
cavities there were marvellous effects and tints of 
blue, ranging to the deepest ultramarine in their in- 
most recesses. The whole formed a floating fairy- 
palace, built of sapphires, about the sides of which 

(From a photograph) 

brooks rah and cascades feU, while the sound of 
dripping water echoed unceasingly from the caverns 
at its base. When one comes across icebergs of 
this kind, which happens now and again, a wealth 
of beauty is found in ' fantastic forms and play of 


colour which absorbs one's whole imagination and 
carries one back to the wonders and mysteries of the 
fairy-land of childhood. 

It was now dark, and after having groped .about 
for a while in search of a camping-place, we finally 
chose a little island which lies in lat. 62° 25' JST. and 
long. 42° 6' W. As usual the boats were unloaded 
and hauled ashore. This was possibly the spot which 
is reputed by a tradition of the east coast to be the 
scene of a combat between a European and a 

Next morning — we had now reached August 2^ 
we set off again and purposed to cross the fjord 
which lay just to the north of us, passing on our way 
the island of Uvdlorsiutit. But we soon found our- 
selves among ice of the most impracticable kind, and 
were constrained to acknowledge the truth of the 
Eskimo dogma, the full force of which had indeed 
been made plain to us the day before, that, as a rule, 
the best water is to be found close under the shore. 
"We had to turn back and try our luck nearer land 
and farther inside the fjord. As, however, the ice 
here also seemed closely packed and difficult, we 
were thinking of trying to pass the sound between 
the mainland and the island, when we caught sight of 
Eskimo tents on its southernmost point. We put in to 
make inquiries as to the water-way farther north, and 


were not a little astonished to find ourselves received 
on the shore by a company of women and almost 
entirely naked children, in whom we recognised oui 
friends of Cape Bille. They laughed at us heartily 
and gave us to understand that they had gone by 
us while we were asleep, probably On the morning 
before. They had pitched their tents here in a snug 
little spot amid grass and heather. Only one man 
was to be seen, and he was standing by one of the 
tents, busy mending his ' kayak,' which had probably 
been crushed in the ice by some mischance or other. 
All the other men and ' kayaks ' were missing, and 
we supposed they must be out hunting in search of 

We then asked about the water to the inside of 
the island, and we were told that no passage was 
possible that way, but that we must go outside. They 
even tried to make us believe that the channel was 
too narrow to allow of a passage, but this was not 
the fact, since Holm's expedition passed through 
several times. However, to make sure, we went 
outside the island, and got by without much diffi- 
culty. The ice certainly lay close at all the pro- 
jecting points, but our united efforts forced a pas- 
sage at these spots, and elsewhere we crept along 
under the shore. 

Soon after noon we were at the northern end of 

c c 2 



the island, where we came across a remarkable cave 
running far into the rocks. Hence we pushed on 
across the mouth of the fjord in fairly open water, 
and by the evening reached land at Tingmiarmiut, the 
Eldorado of the east coast, with its mountains, its 
stretches of green grass, and its scattered bushes of 

{From a photograph) 

willow and juniper, the spot which was described to 
Captain Holm in such glowing colours by its quondam 
chief, Navfalik. 

That evening, as we were passing the island of 
Ausivit some way out to sea, we heard from the land 
a distant sound of barking dogs, and inferred that 
there must be an Eskimo camp at hand. But we had 


now really no time for visits and civilities, and passing 
unceremoniously on, we stopped for the night on an 
islet near JSTunarsuak, in lat. 62° 43' N. and long. 
41° 49' W. 

On the morning of the next day, August 3, there 
was so much wind blowing off the land that we deter- 
mined to try and sail, and hastily rigged our boats, 
one with the tent-floor and the other with two tar- 
paulins sewn together. Af first we got on well and 
fast, and it was a real pleasure now and again to feel 
our boats heel over as the gusts caught them in the 
short stretches of open water, where we had, however, 
to keep our eyes about us to avoid collisions with the 
floes. We had not sailed far, though, before the 
pleasure became somewhat mqre doubtful, as the 
squalls grew more and more violent and the wind 
worked round to the north. It soon grew so strong 
that saihng became out of the question. Then after 
we had rowed a while, and were getting near the high, 
precipitous island of Umanarsuak, the wind came 
down from the cliffs with such force that it was all 
we could do to push on at all. Things now grew 
worse and worse ; sometimes we had to tow the boats 
along the floes to make any headway, and once we 
were all but crushed by the violent movements of the 
ice. Hitherto we had kept fairly well together, but 
now our work was more serious, and each crew had 


no eyes but for its own boat and its own course. At 
the very height of the storm one of my men, in his 
zeal, broke the blade of his oar off short. We had no 
whole oars in reserve on board, for they had all been 
broken in the ice, but there was no time to be lost, 
and one with half a blade had to be substituted. 
Sometimes the gusts of wind are so strong that in 
spite of all our efforts we are forced backwards. Now 
a thole-pin goes, which is a worse mishap than the 
last, for when a break like this occurs at a critical 
moment, and all the other thwarts are blocked, the 
consequences may be very awkward. However, we 
repaired the damage without delay, and were saved 
from drifting for this time. Thus slowly, but as 
surely as can be expected, we manage to crawl along 
towards shore by the exercise of all our powers. On 
our way we come alongside a floe, and, painter in 
hand, Dietrichson jumps out to tow us. In his zeal 
he fails to notice that he is jumping on to an over- 
hanging edge of ice, which breaks with his weight, 
and lets him head first into the water. This was 
nothing unusual, indeed, but it could have happened 
at few more unfavourable moments than just now. 
With his usual activity and presence of mind, he is 
soon out again and once more at work with the tow- 
rope as if nothing had happened. The exertion, no 
doubt, kept him warm, or else a ducking while this 


biting wind was blowing must have been peculiarly 
unpleasant. Such, things as this, however, seemed 
never to trouble Dietrichson. 

This floe we eventually passed, but the wind was 
still so strong that progress was scarcely possible. 
Very little more would have set us unmercifully 
drifting southwards. But my men plied their oar- 
stumps with surprising vigour, and we just held our 
own. Then, again, Dietrichson was just at work 
pushing us oflf another floe, when his boathook gave, 
and he was once more all but in the water. Mis- 
fortune pursued us that day with unusual pitilessness. 

At last, however, we found calmer water under 
the cliffs, and soon reached land, Sverdrup's boat 
being a little in front of us. We now had our dinner, 
as well as a short period of rest, which we thoroughly 
deserved. Then we went on again, but the wind was 
scarcely less violent, and when we had passed into 
more open water beyond the southern point of 
Umanarsuak, we found a nasty choppy sea against 
us, running out of the fjord to the north. So, though 
it was still very early for us, we put in to shore as 
soon as we reached Umanak. This day, and it was 
the only time during this part of our journey, we 
were able to really choose a place for our tent, and, 
moreover, to feel for the first and last time the plea- 
sure of lying on the. grass, and having something 


better than hard rock or ice to sleep upon. But we 
had really nothing to complain of on this score, for we 
always slept excellently, though we could well have 
wished for a little more in quantity. As soon as we 
were well ashore and settled, we determined to col- 
lect fuel, of which there was plenty in the form of 
juniper scrub, heather, and similar stufi, and then 
make some soup and a good hot meal. There were 
plenty of willing hands, the work was doiie with 
overflowing zeal, a big fire was soon blazing between 
some stones, and on them was cooking in a biscuit 
tin the most delicious soup and stew that mortals have 
ever seen. Our camping-place at Umanak, or Griffen- 
feldt's Island, will not soon be forgotten by the six 
who sat that evening round their fire and enjoyed at 
ease and at their leisure the only warm meal vouch- 
safed to them during the whole voyage up the coast. 
We were not the first to enjoy life in this spot, as we 
saw, among other things, by the ruins of some Eskimo 
huts which stood close at hand. That other events 
less agreeable than the mere enjoyment of life had 
taken place there was evident from the number of 
human bones that lay scattered about among the 
ruins, and one skull of an old Eskimo lay grinning at 
us in the daylight in a very uncomfortable and sug- 
gestive way. It seems not improbable that the 
inhabitants of this spot died of famine, that the 


place was deserted, and the huts left to faU to 

The next day, August 4, the wind had dropped 
to some extent and we could proceed. But the ice 
was often closely packed and we found it especially 
troublesome in the mouth of Sehested's Fjord. Here 
we had to push a long way in to find a passage, and it 
was only by the help of our axe and boathooks that 
we forced our way through at all. At nine o'clock in 
the evening we passed a delightful spot for an encamp- 
ment, but as we thought it still too early to give over 
work for the day, we held on our way northwards. 
As a reward for our virtue, we had to push on till 
half-past one that night before we found a place 
where we could haul our boats ashore, on an islet off 
the island of Uvivak, in lat. 63° 3' N. and long. 
41° 18' W. That day we had worked hard in the ice 
for seventeen hours with only half-an-hour's break 
for our midday meal. 

On August 5, by the help of axe and boathook, 
we struggled on still farther through the packed ice 
which lay close along the sliore the whole way north- 
wards. A number of huge icebergs lined the coast, 
and in the middle of the afternoon, when we had 
passed the promontory of Kutsigsormiut, and had 
put in to a small island in order to get a sight of the 
water ahead and to lay our course, we saw at sixty 



or seventy yards' distance a huge block of ice 
suddenly detach itself and fall from one of these 
monster icebergs, which, losing its balance thereby, 
at once swung round in the water with a deafening 
roar. The sea was set in violent agitation, the floes 


(^By E. JViehen, from a photograpli) 

were thrown hither and thither and dashed together, 
and a small rock which rose out of the water in 
front of us was completely washed by the great 
waves. Had we gone on instead of stopping, as we 
had at one time contemplatedj we should have had 


little chance of escaping being dashed against the 
rocks of the shore. 

After a very hard spell of work we reached, late 
in the evening, a small islet which lay full in the 
opening of Inugsuarmiutfjord. Here we had in- 
tended to stop for the day, worn and tired as we 
were, but to our astonishment we suddenly found 
ourselves passing out of the closely packed ice into 
an open stretch of water. The fjord lay bright and 
smooth before us right away to the island of 
Skjoldungen. We were tempted to make use of 
the opportunity, so after an extra ration of meat- 
chocolate we went on again and eventually found a 
good camping-place on an islet at the other side. 

On the east coast of Greenland there is a con- 
siderable ebb and flow in the tide. As a rule at this 
time we were unfortunate enough to have low water 
in the evening just as we had to take our boats ashore, 
and we were obHged in consequence to haul them a 
long way up to get them out of reach of the rising tide. 
This particular night, too, we had, as usual, moved 
the boats and baggage well up, and in the morning 
were not a little surprised to find that our beer-keg 
and a piece of board which we had used to prop the 
boats with were gone. The sea had even washed 
over some of our provision tins, but as these were 
water-tight no damage was done. But we had good 


reason to be thankful for having bought our expe- 
rience so cheaply. For the rest of the way we were 
very careful about the boats. The loss of the keg, 
which was the one we had carried off from the 
' Jason/ depressed us aU considerably. This was not 
because it had any beer in it, for that we had con- 
sumed long ago. We had taken to using it as a 
water-vessel. The water we would drink from the 
bung-hole, and as we then smelt the fragrant emana- 
tions which still came from the interior, we could 
easily and to our great comfort persuade ourselves 
that we were actually imbibing some feeble and 
shadowy form of the invigorating drink we so much 

This morning, too, we were visited by a stiU less 
welcome guest. I woke to find myself scratching 
my face vigorously and to see the whole tent fuU of 
mosquitoes. We had begun by taking great pleasure 
in the company of these creatures on-the occasion of 
our first landing on the Greenland coast, but this 
day cured us completely of any predilections in that 
way, and if there is a morning of my life on which I 
look back with unmitigated horror, it is the morning 
which I now record. I have not ceased to wonder 
indeed that we retained our reason. As soon as I 
woke I put on my clothes with aU speed and rushed 
out into the open air to escape my tormentors. But 


this was but transferring myself from the frying- 
pan to the fire. Whole clouds of these bloodthirsty 
demons swooped upon my face and hands, the latter 
being at once covered with what might well have 
passed for rough woollen gloves. 

But breakfast was our greatest trial, for when 
one cannot get a scrap of food into one's mouth 
except it be wrapped in a mantle of mosquitoes^ 
things are come to a pretty pass indeed. We fled to 
the highest point of rock which was at hand, where 
a bitter wind was blowing and where we hoped to be 
allowed to eat our breakfast in peace, and enjoy the 
only pleasure of the life we led. We ran from one 
rock to another, hung our handkerchiefs before our 
faces, pulled down our caps over our necks and ears, 
struck out and beat the air like lunatics, and in short 
fought a most desperate encounter against these 
overwhelming odds, but all in vain. Wherever we 
stood, wherever we walked or ran, we carried with 
us, as the sun his planets, each our own little world 
of satellites, until at last in our despair we gave our- 
selves over to the tormentors, and falling prostrate 
where we stood suffered our martyrdom unresistingly 
while we devoured food and mosquitoes with aU 
possible despatch. Then we launched our boats and 
fled out to sea. Even here our pursuers followed us, 
but by whirling round us in mad frenzy tarpaulins 


and coats and all that came to hand, and eventually 
by getting the wind in our favour, we at last succeeded 
in beating off, or at least escaping from, our enemy. 
But the loss of blood on our side was nevertheless 
very cbnsiderable. Never have I in my life fallen 
among such hungry mosquitoes. But, I may add. 
Greenland is one of the countries of the world which 
is most visited by this plague. 




This day, August 6, we passed on the outside of 
Skjoldungen through closely packed ice. North of 
the island we were obliged to push a good way into 
the fjord, and here passed along a coast equalling in 
beauty anything which we had yet seen. On all 
sides the glaciers thrust into the sea their precipitous 
walls of ice, the faces of which were here and there 
hollowed into deep dark blue caves. A passage 
along such cliffs of ice is not quite free from danger. 
Several times that day as well as on others it hap- 
pened that huge blocks from glaciers and icebergs, 
too, fell into the water not far from us, under any of 
which a boat would, have been crushed to fragments. 
When we had crossed the fjord, which is known as 
Akorninap-kangerdlua, the ice still being, tight and 
obstructive, and were off a little island by Singiar- 
tuarfik, we suddenly heard the sound of human voices 
and at the same time became aware of a smell of 
train -oil. Looking towards land we saw a tent and a 


party of natives, the latter in an unusual state of 
commotion. As the spot lay almost in our course, 
we steered thither, but the shrieking and general 
agitation now gave way to a headlong stampede. 
With all their possessions of value, skins, clothes, and 
what not, one figure after the other disappeared up 
the mountain-side. We could see them running as 
fast as their best legs would take them, and winding 
in and out in a long line among the ledges and pro- 
jecting rocks. The party seemed to be almost exclu- 
sively women and children. The last we saw was a 
woman who dived into the only visible tent, but soon 
reappeared with an armful of skins and then fled like 
a rabbit after the rest up the slope. Their figures 
grew smaller and smaller as they increased the 
distance between themselves and us, though a few 
women stopped in their curiosity a long way up and 
observed our proceedings from a projecting ledge! 
Meanwhile we moved on towards the tent, but no 
living creature was to be seen save a dog,, which, 
curiously enough, lay quietly before the door. 
Though we had no business to transact with these 
people and had no time to stop, we did not like to 
leave them without assuring them of our harmless- 
ness. We made signs to them, we shouted to them 
the best Eskimo we could, but all to no purpose, as 
they simply stood and stared at us. But at last one 


woman seemed unable to withstand tlie attractions of 
our demonstration, and quietly and hesitatingly she 
came nearer and nearer, with another following a 
little way behind. By degrees they came within 
hearing, though this did not make things much 
better, since we had nothing to say to them. But at 
least they now had the chance of distinctly seeing 
our friendly faces and reassuring looks and gestures, 
as well as the empty tins we displayed as prospective' 
presents. The tins proved irresistible. The women 
assumed looks of extreme embarrassment and hesi- 
tation, though their appearance scarcely justified any 
apprehension that their beauty could lead them intO' 
trouble. But at this moment a man appeared sud- 
denly upon the scene, and inspired them with so- 
much courage that they came almost to the water's 
edge and stood there as we sat a little way out in 
our boats. We now looked one at the other, while 
the Eskimo, the man acting as precentor, intoned 
the usual chorus of wonder and admiration. He 
indeed looked, as he stood there, for all the world 
like a mad bull, though no doubt there could have 
been nothing milder or more peaceable than the 
train of his thought at the moment. On his back 
he had a jacket of some cotton stuff, and on his head 
a ' kayak ' hat of the usual broad, flat form worn on 
the east coast of Greenland, made of a wooden hoop 

VOL. I. ' D D 


covered with calico and marked with a cross in red 
and white, his whole get-up showing unmistakable 
signs of a connexion with the trading stations of the 
west coast. We now pulled farther in, and one of 
us jumped ashore with the painter. At this mancEuvre 
the natives at first fled incontinently, but then re- 
turning to within a few paces and seeing we made 
no further sign of hostility, they became reassured 
once more and again came nearer. We now magni- 
ficently presented them with an empty tin, friend- 
ship was at once established, and their faces beamed 
with joy and with their admiration for the generous 
strangers. By this time more of them had gathered 
round, and it seemed that the men had been out in 
their canoes, but had been called back by the 
women's screams. 

The new comers were all shown the precious 
gift and were given to understand that our intentions 
were not hostile. The most noteworthy among them 
was a httle hunchbacked fellow, with a pleasant 
oldish face and particularly smart attire. We now 
made our boats fast and walked up the slope, finding, 
to our surprise, a whole encampment of tents which 
lay behind a low ridge and had not been visible 
before. More astonished stiU were we to see a 
' Danebrog ' flag waving on a little stafi" beside one 
of the tents. This, we supposed, must have been 


obtained from Captain Holm some years ago, as he 
describes having distributed Danish flags here and 
there among the Eskimo. It was very strange that 
they should have been so afraid of us, since, if this 
were the case, they must have come into contact 
with Europeans before. But there must have been 
something uncanny about us, as we came in our own 
boats and our own company, while Holm had boats 
like those they used, and was rowed and steered by 
their own countrymen. Nor is it unlikely that the 
traditions which they have received from the west 
Greenlanders of the destruction of the ' Kavdlunak,' 
or' Europeans, at the hands of their forefathers, and 
the dread that the latter will come one day out of 
the sea in ships and avenge the deed, are still pre- 
dominant in their minds. In a little bay below the 
encampment was a big family boat, which had evi- 
dently been just launched in readiness for flight. 

As I wanted to taste dried seal's flesh and thought 
besides that it would be a wise measure to cache 
some, if we could get it, with the boats, I proceeded 
to ask for some by the help of the appropriate word 
from my vocabulary, but with the usual unproductive 
result. But when I went and took hold of a piece of 
meat which was hanging up to dry in front of one of 
the tents, they understood me at once and brought 
out several joints. "In return for this I gave them a 


large darning needle, which magnificent scale of 
payment produced a lively exchange, and our friends 
came out with one huge piece of seal's flesh after 
the other, for which they received more needles 
Each of us, too, was presented with a piece, so in 
addition to the needles we gave them some more 
tins. Eavna, however, absolutely refused to take 
any present, and in spite of pressure persisted in his 
determination. I afterwards heard that this was 
because he thought these poor people would have 
need of their meat themselves, and besides he con- 
sidered a needle altogether insufficient payment, and 
would be no party to such nefarious dealings. 

Balto in his account of this meeting says : ' When 
we had rowed across the mouth of a fjord, we again 
smelt a smell of rank seal-blubber, but the heathens 
had taken to flight with their women and children, 
and were up on the rocks far above the tents. 
When we had come into the bay where the tents 
stood, we lay there looking at these poor creatures 
who had run away. Then Nansen shouted to them, 
" Nogut piteagag ! " which should mean " we are 
friends," but is shocking bad Eskimo. But they 
took no notice of this, and stood waving their hands 
to us as if to say, " Go away ! go away ! " Then 
two men came out from behind a knoll. They came 
down to the water, and when they got close to us,. 


they bellowed like other heathens. One man did 
not seem to be more than three feet high. Then we 
went ashore, and asked them to let us have some 
dried seal's flesh, for we saw some hanging up round 
about, and we had read in Captain Holm's book 
that dried seal's flesh is very good to eat. We gave 
them some needles for the meat, and then went on.' 

As Balto says, we soon embarked again, and we 
had not got far before we saw some of the men come 
paddling after us and towing enormous pieces of 
seal-meat which they wished to exchange for more 
needles. Just as we were getting into our boats, too, 
we had seen the little dwarf in the distance, coming 
along dragging a great piece with him, as he wanted 
to have his share too in the general exchange. . He 
did not reach us in time, and we were now surprised 
to see a little fellow paddling along far away in our 
wake, and to recognise in him the same little hunch- 
back. He certainly made a most comical figure, as 
he sat in his 'kayak,' with his little bent back 
scarce^ showing above the gunwale. He was 
evidently exerting himself prodigiously to overtake 
us and effect a deal with his piece of meat ; but in 
spite of all his efforts, the .poor little fellow never 
;reached us, and had to turn back disappointed. 

As we advanced we met one ' kayak ' after the 
-other, the occupants of which all followed us, and 


were particularly friendly and communicative. At 
last we had an escort of no less than seven of them, 
who, paddling round and round the boats, expressed 
the most unqualified admiration for us and our 

When they had escorted us a long way and dark- 
ness was just coming on, they fell off little by little, 
and then lay still on the water for a while to watch 
us before they turned homewards. Just as the four 
last of them had dropped ' behind and were having 
their last look, I caught sight of a seal on a floe in 
front of us. Though this might have provided us 
with some very welcome fresh meat, I could not 
resist signalling to the four 'kayaks,' for we all 
wanted to see an Eskimo catch his seal. They came 
to us at once, but could not understand what we 
wanted, as from their low canoes they could not see 
the seal over the edge of the ice. I pointed, they 
looked and looked again, and then suddenly caught 
sight of him. It was a treat to see the ' kayaks ' 
get under way and the paddles fly round, as the 
four started in pursuit, crouching as they went, in 
order to get near under cover of the ice. Two of 
the men outstripped the others and were fast drawing 
within distance. The seal now seemed a bit uneasy, 
but every time he lifted his head and looked towards 
them, the ' kayakers ' stopped dead, and did not stir 


till he turned away again. Then came a few more 
powerful strokes and another halt, and by this means 
they had got so near that we were expecting to see 
them every moment throw their harpoons, when 
suddenly the seal plunged into the water. They 
waited a while longer with their harpoons raised, 
ready to throw in case their prey showed himself 
again, but no seal appeared, so they turned home- 
wards empty-handed. 

We, too, a little disappointed, went on our way 
northwards, and finding the water open reached the 
island on which Savsivik lies, and encamped for the 
night on an islet off its east side in lat. 63° 20' N., 
long. 41° W. This island is known from the fact 
that Graah passed the winter of 1829-30 on its 
inner side at Tmarsivik. 

Next day, August 7, we again found the ice 
awkward and difficult, but by dint of energy and 
perseverance we pushed through, and were rewarded 
again by finding more open water farther north. 
This day, too, we fell in with difficulties of another 
kind. Hitherto we had got on excellently with 
Holm and Garde's map of the coast, but here there 
was something altogether wrong. There seemed to 
be a number of islets, islands, and fjords which were 
not marked upon the map at all, or if so, then 
wrongly, and things came to such a pass at last that 


I determined to navigate after my own head and trust 
'to luck. "What was the matter with this part of the 
'map was a mystery to me, till I got-'home again and 
found that Holm had not been able to survey this 
section of the coast in the short time at his disposal, 
and had consequently been obliged to work from 
Graah's map instead. Nevertheless one would have 
"supposed that Graah knew this particular neighbour- 
hood well, seeing that he spent one winter there. 

The coast to the north of this was prolific in 
sea-fowl, and there were several bird-rocks. Of' 
gulls and guillemots we shot all that came in our 
way, but we had no time to stop for the purpose. 
On one rock, where numbers of guillemots nested, 
we climbed up to get some of the young ones, but 
our spoil consisted of only two. These birds, as a 
rule, ihanage to lay their eggs in such inaccessible 
places that fellow-creatures who have no wings 
cannot often reach them, except at the risk of 
breaking their necks. But the young guillemots are 
at the same time fat and rich, and are a real 

As we were shooting gulls and guillemots off a 
rock beyond Cape Moltke, we suddenly heard the 
whirr of wings and saw a flock of eider-duck rushing 
by us. There was just time to bring the gun round 
and have a shot at them, and two birds feU. These 


were the first eider-duck we met with on the coast. 
The same day, later in the evening, another big flock 
came flying north. I heard Sverdrup from the other 
boat tell me to look out, and I also heard the whirr 
of their wings, but there was not light enough for a 
shot, as I could only get a glimpse of them against 
'the dark background of the shore. 

Meanwhile, we pushed on steadily northwards, 
and the. misgivings of the Lapps became more visible 
every day, and were more Openly expressed. Balto, 
the spokesman, had several times confided to me 
that they had felt more comfortable since they came 
across the Eskimo and had seen that they were decent 
•folk and not cannibals, as he had been told at home 
in Finmarken, and that it would be possible to pass 
a winter with them in case of need. But now that 
we had seen the last of the natives, as they supposed, 
and were still going northwards, the two had begun 
to get very uneasy, and to complain of the hard work 
and short commons, and because we had had to come 
so far north, and yet had found no place from which 
. to get up on to the ice, for there could be no question 
, of such a thing on a coast like this, and they were 
sure it could never be any better. I always consoled 
Balto by telling him that farther on by Umivik, or a 
little way beyond that, the coast was much better, as 
indeed he must have seen himself as we drifted by in 


the ice on our way soutli. But he always declared 
that he had seen nothing of the kind, and this parti- 
cular day his complaints were so vociferous and high- 
pitched that I grew quite tired of them, and gave him 
a good sound lecture on his miserable cowardice, 
enforced by the strongest language at' my command. 
This brought matters to a head, and Balto now 
resolved to speak his mind, and tell me all that he 
had been nursing up for the last few days. I had 
told them in Christiania, he declared, that they should 
have their coffee every day, and just as much food as 
they liked. But they had only had coffee once in 
three weeks, and as for the food, wh)', they had 
miserable rations served out to them. There was one 
thing he would tell me, that not a single one of them 
had eaten his fill since they reached the coast. They 
were starved, and besides were treated like dogs, were 
ordered about, and had to work from early morning 
till late at night, and harder than beasts. This was 
too much ; for his part he would gladly give hun- 
dreds of pounds to be safe back at home again. 

I now explained to him that they had had no 
coffee, first, because no promise had been made to 
them on this point or any other ; secondly, be- 
cause there had been no time to make coffee ; and 
thirdly, because it was not good for them. Then I 
represented to him what the consequences would be 


if we were all allowed to eat as much as we liked. 
The provisions might perhaps last us to the middle 
of Greenland, when it would be rather too late to 
repent. We must all share and share alike with the 
food, and as for the ordering about, he must under- 
stand that on such an expedition there must be one 
will and only one. But no, he refused to understand 
anything of the kind, refused to be comforted, and 
never ceased to deploye that he had fallen among 
people 'who had such strange ways,' as he expressed 
it. It was the Lappish nomadic tendency and the 
want of a spirit of submission which came out on 
these occasions, and it continued to do so in spite of 
Balto's good-nature and amiability. It was scarcely 
to be wondered at, indeed, and, as a matter of fact, I 
saw less and less of it as time went oh. 

There is no denying that it was hard upon us to 
go through the heavy work we did along the coast, 
•and that upon a hmited ration of dried food. We 
had been accustomed to eat our fill more or less, and 
our stomachs found it difficult to reconcile them- 
selves to this strong but concentrated and compact 
form of food. By degrees we got used to it, and 
then things went better. It was, as Kristiansen said, 
the consciousness that what we got was enough for 
us which kept us going. When he got home he was 
asked whether he had had a good meal all the time. 


' No,' he said, ' he had never eaten as much as he was 
' good for.' ' Well,' was the answer, ' you did not like 
that, did you ? ' ' No, not at first,' said he, ' when we 
were not used to it ; but then Nansen told us that 
what he gave us was enough, and that did the trick. 
And so it was enough, you see.' 

The coast now began to get less abrupt, and the 
mountains lower and more rounded in form. We had 
in fact reached a section of the coast at which we 
could begin to contemplate our ascent, and to which 
I had long been anxious to attain, since if any mishap 
were to befall us and make our farther advance by 
boat impossible, we could nevertheless take to the 
'Inland ice.' Our confidence now almost reached 
the limits of presumption, and our hearts grew very 
light. To this contributed not a little the fact that 
we had this evening an excellent water-way and 
brilliant weather, and made rapid progress. 

As on the previous night, too, there was a glorious 
show of northern lights in the southern sky. The 
great billows of light rolled backwar'ds and forwards 
in long, undulating streams. The flicfkering of the 
rays and their restless chase to and fro suggested 
crowds of combatants, armed with flaming spears, 
now retiring and now rushing to the onset, while sud- 
denly as if at given signals huge volleys of missiles 
were discharged. These flew like a shower of fiery 


darts, and all were directed at the same point, the 
centre of the system, which lay near the zenith. The 
whole display would then be extinguished, though' 
only to begin and follow the same fantastic course 
again. The Eskimo have a pretty legend of the 
northern lights, and believe them to be the souls of 
dead children playing at ball in heaven. > 

We encamped for the night on the inner side 
of the island of Kekertarsuak. "We had no sooner 
pitched our tent than we were startled by a thunder- 
ing report from the south, from the direction of Cape 
Moltke. We seemed to feel the air itself vibrate 
and the very earth tremble. We rushed up to the 
nearest crag and looked southwards, but it was all too 
far oif, and we could see nothing. The noise lasted 
some ten minutes, and the sound was as if a whole 
mountain side had fallen into the sea, and set the 
water in violent agitation, so that the waves reached 
alidost to where we stood, and broke against the 
shore and rocks. Probably it was some enormous 
iceberg which had dissolved into fragments or changed 
its position in the water, though it is not at all impos- 
sible that it was an avalanche of rocks. At several 
places along the coast we had seen traces of such. 

The next day, August 8, we proceeded in open 
water and splendid weather, and made an attempt to 
pass inside the islands at Igdloluarsuk and across 


Kangerdlugsuak or Bernstorffsfjord, but were much 
surprised to find the fjord simply full of glacier and 
other ice which lay close in shore and barred all pro- 
gress. So after I had been up on the innermost point 
of the island of Sagiarusek, and convinced myself of 
the impossibility of this route, we turned back to go 
outside the island. On the top of this'point I found 
what I at 'first, took to be a fallen cairn, the stones 
being laid some across others, and forming a kind of 
oblong chamber. . Though the Eskimo fox-traps are 
not. generally built exactly in this, way, I nevertheless 
think, that it must have .been an old arrangement of 
the kind. ; Again; on the south side of the island," we 
noticed at the end of a small inlet some tall stones 
standing upright. We rowed in to see what' they 
were, and came upon the. most charming spot we had 
yet seen' in -Greenland j a little flat green' meadow, and 
in front of /it a big tarn of fresh water, with snaall 
fish swiinming in it of a species which I could not 
determine. On one side of the. meadow were ruins of 
Eskimo houses, one of them very large, and the rest 
smaller. There were many skeletons in and outside 
the large house, including a particularly well-pre- 
served Eskimo skull, which we carried off. These 
bones pointed to the conclusion that this settlement, 
too, had been depopulated by famine. 

Here we resolved upon a little self-indulgence and 


enjoyment of life and, though it was not yet dinner- 
time, to lie in the long grass and rest and bask in 
the sunshine, while, we ate the sorrel which, with 
other plants, grew here in luxuriance, 

The Eskimo certainly knew what they were 
about when they settled in this spot, for there was 

{From a photograph) 

an excellent and well-protected harbour with a good 
piece of beach for their skin-boats, and, as I have 
said, the situation was charming. The five flat stones 
which were standing upright and first drew our at- 
tention to the place were long a riddle to me, but 
after I had had some conversation with Captain 


Holm on the subject, I was inclined to the view that 
they were stocks for the ' umiaks,' or large skin-boats, 
that isrto say, supports on which the boats are raised 
to be dried, and to which they are fastened when laid 
up for the winter. 

There are besides many other traces of human 
occupation on these islands, which are, as a matter 
of fact, not one island, as they are given on Holm's 
map, but two, divided by a narrow sound, and the 
outer being the smaller. On several of the points also 
I found similar cairns of stones, or, as I suppose, 
remains of old fox- traps. 

j By the outermost islet off Igdloluarsuk we found 
the mouth of the fjord so full of huge icebergs that 
we had to go seawards to find a practicable passage. 
On our way we tried to push between the icebergs, 
but were soon stopped. The floes get jammed so 
fast in between these monsters by the furious current 
that there is no possibility of moving them. So we 
had to return once more and go further out to sea. 

If in ordinary ice it is necessary to get a look 
ahead from some high-lying point, it is no less 
necessary to take the same measures among ice- 
bergs such as these. So whenever we came across 
one that was easily accessible we naturally mounted 
it at once. Imposing as these floating monsters look 
from below, when one rows beneath them, the effect. 


as far as regards their magnitude, is nothing to that 
produced when one sees them from above. One we 
ascended at this particular moment was fairly flat 
and even on its upper surface, which in fact formed 
a plateau of considerable extent, an entry in 
Dietrichson's diary declaring that it was a quarter of 
an hour's walk across at its narrowest part. The 
surface was hard snow and there were slopes which 
would have suited us and our ' ski ' to perfection. 
Its highest point was certainly more than two hun- 
dred feet above the water. If the reader will now 
bear in mind that the portion below the water is in 
all probability six or seven times as thick, he will 
be able to reckon a total of at least 1400 feet. And 
when he adds to this a breath of 1000 or 1300 yards, 
or even more, he will be able to realise sufficiently 
distinctly what the lumps of ice are actually like 
which float in these seas, and of which there are hun-' 
dreds and thousands along this coast. Off this one 
fjord alone there were incalculable numbers of them. 
From that we were on there was a fine view, and the 
masses of icebergs looked like an alpine landscape of 
pure ice. Between them were chasms at the bottom 
of which one saw the sea. One of these lay at our 
feet and we could see a narrow strip of dark blue 
water winding in its channel between two precipitous 
walls of ice, each nearly two hundred feet in height. 
VOL. I. E E 


The beauty of the whole landscape in this world of 
ice with its blue cliffs and strange outlines is very 
striking. /'',' 

Icebergs are generally of two types, and nowhere 
could we have seen better how well these two types 
are distinguished than here where so many lay in 
view. One is at once inclined to think that they 
have had two quite different origins. Some of the 
icebergs have a very broken and riven surface, full 
of rents and irregularities. Such a surface is ex- 
actly that of a glacier which descends into the sea. 
These icebergs always have a very irregular outline, 
and by this and their blue tint one can tell them at 
great distances. Their origin is plain enough and 
they must be the product of sea-glaciers. 

But there is also a, much more prosaic type of 
iceberg, such as that on which we were now mounted. 
These have the form of an immense cube of ice with 
a comparatively smooth and polished upper surface, 
sharply-cut precipitous sides, and no blue crevasses. 
They are much whiter than the other kind and give 
an impression of far greater solidity. One can row 
beneath them with much more confidence,- for they 
are not nearly so ready to drop fragments upon the 
head of the passer-by. Though owing to their 
smooth surface they are altogether unlike glacier-ice, 
they are without comparison the more numerous of 


the two forms. There are certainly five times as 
many of these square icebergs as of the more irre- 
gular type. 

Now whence do these other icebergs come, and 
how are they formed ? This is a question over which 
I have long puzzled without arriving at any certain 
conclusion. It is a simple impossibility that there 
should be glaciers anywhere in these regions which 
flow so quietly into the sea that their surface is 
smooth and quite devoid of crevasses. Besides these 
very icebergs may be seen floating in the fjords just 
off glaciers of the ordinary torn and ragged form. 
They must consequently have their origin in these 
glaciers, from which the icebergs of the former type 
certainly come. 

The only, satisfactory explanation which occurs 
to me is that the irregular icebergs have, since their 
detadhment from the glacier, happened to retain 
their original position, that is to say, with the rent 
and fissured surface uppermost, while the regular or 
cubical forms have, either in the act of calving or 
subsequently, turned over, and now show either the 
worn and smooth surface of the bottom or side of 
the glacier or else the plane of fracture, which would 
naturally also be comparatively level and free from 

We saw, to our joy, that beyond these stretches of 

E E 2 


icebergs, which nevertheless themselves extended a 
long way to the north, there was good navigable 
water, apparently as far as we could see. So after 
having laid down a course which would take us with- 
out difficult}'- to this open water, and then having 
chanted a pasan in honour of the occasion, we went 
down to the boats again prepared to work at high 
pressure in order to get through the doubtful part 
before the ice packed. This soon happens among 
these changing currents, and the prospect of being 
wedged fast for the night among these capricious 
icebergs was not to be thought of. So, as rapidly as 
our oars would take us, we pushed on through the 
narrow channels, in which we could see nothing but 
the deep blue water below us, with here and there 
a floe on its surface, the cliffs of ice on either hand, 
and high above our heads a slender strip of sky. 

Though several times huge icebergs fell in pieces 
or turned over round about us, setting the sea in 
violent motion and making the air resound, we 
passed without mishap through the whole mass of 
them, which extended a long way north of the open- 
ing of the fjord. Once we had to seek a passage 
through a tunnel, which ran through a great iceberg, 
and from which the dripping water showered heavily 
down upon us. Whether all this congregation of 
icebergs comes from Bernstorff's Fjord, it is hard to 


say, but it seems scarcely likely, though this fjord is 
one of those of the east coast which provide icebergs 
in the largest quantity. 

Having passed Cape Mosting and the worst of the 
ice in good order, we spent the night on a small islet 
or rock lying in lat. 63° 44' ¥. long. 40° 32' W. 
As there was no flat ground of sufficient extent to 
accommodate our tent, which, besides, we had found 
too warm to sleep in the last few nights, we stretched 
our sleeping-bags upon the rocks. Just opposite us 
on the mainland was a sea-bird cliff thronged with 
gulls which made such a disturbance the whole night' 
long that we heard them as we slept and wove them 
into our dreams. In order to be level with them, I 
paid them a visit next morning, which cost a certain 
number of them their lives, and provided us with a 
pleasant addition to our larder, which was already 
stocked with a fair quantity of game. These young 
gulls, which were just now ready to fly, are excellent 
meat for hungry folk like us. 

We could plainly see that an ascent of the 
' Inland ice ' would be fairly easy from any point of 
the coast along which we were now passing. There 
wefe some numbers of what the Eskimo call 'nunataks,' 
that is to say, peaks or masses of rock projecting 
above the surface of the ice. The ordinary belief 
among Greenland travellers is that the ice round 


these is always rough and fissured. But this is 
certainly only the case when the ice has a compara- 
tively rapid movement and the rocks form obsta- 
cles which divert the stream, as it were, and lead 
to irregularities. In many cases, I am inclined to 
believe, these ' nunataks ' tend on the other hand to 
make the ice smooth and even, as they check the 

(By A. Block, from an instantaneous photograph, taken that day from a floe) 

onward movement, which would otherwise be more 
rapid and give rise to the ordinary fissures and 

However, there was no need for us to take to the 
ice yet, as the water seemed to be open right away to 
Umivik, whence the distance to Kristianshaab would 
be considerably less. So we continued on our way 
north in water which grew more and more open, 


and amid continual" crashes from the icebergs and 
glaciers around us. 

This particular evening we had a strange experi- 
ence. We were between two icebergs, and just 
engaged in forcing two floes apart, when we heard 
a crash and saw a huge piece faU. from the berg on 
our larboard side on to one of the floes on which we 
were standing, and which it partly crushed, and 
thereby made us a good passage through. Had we 
started to force our way through here a few minutes 
sooner, which indeed we were very nearly doing, we 
should undoubtedly have been annihilated. Curiously 
enough, this was the third incident of the kind which 
had happened to us. 

On Ketertarsuatsiak, a little island lying at the 
mouth of Krumpensfjord, where? we had our dinner, 
I climbed to the summit, which was very high, and 
gave me an excellent view to tlie north. The water 
seemed to be open and clear of floes as far as I could 
see in the direction of Umivik. There were a great 
many icebergs and glacier-fragments, especially off 
Gyldenlove's Fjord and Colberger Heide. Seawards, 
too, I had a fine view, and here the ice seemed very 
much scattered. The high mountains by Umivik, 
and especially the conical peak of Kiatak, which 
marks our eventual destination, seem quite near, and 
yet, according to the map, they are still thirty miles. 



away. This fact I conceal from tlie others, who 
think the mountain is so close that we shall reach 
it to-night, and who, therefore, row with increased 

That evening we reached Kangerajuk, a point by 
Colberger Heide, where there was a strip of bare 

{From a photograpli) 

land between two enormous glaciers. It was all we 
could do to draw our boats high enough up, and we 
could find no ground at all to pitch our tent upon, 
so, as on the preceding night, we slept in our bags 
in the open air, on two slabs of rock which would 
just lodge us. As the dew was very heavy, we 


passed a moist nigh.t, and amid a continual cannonade 
from the glaciers and the numberless icebergs which 
lay round about us. 

Early next morning I was woke by a raven which 
sat and croaked a greeting from a crag opposite us. 
I found the glorious sunshine too tempting, and, 

(^By A. Blocli,from cm instantaneous pliolograph, taken that day from ajloe') 

slipping unnoticed out of my bag, I took a photo- 
graph of the view to the north, with a huge arm of 
the glacier on Colberger Heide in the background, 
and in the foreground my two bedfellows, Sverdrup 
and Dietrichson, who were still deep in their morning 
sleep, and will, I hope, forgive the liberty of this 


unceremonious presentation. In the distance is the 
peak of Kiatak, which is our goal for the day. 

We now had the most splendid weather and the 
openest water that had hitherto fallen to our lot, and 
we pushed on fast. Dinner was particularly enjoy- 
able, as a gentle breeze sprang up from the south, 
and we were able to hoist our sails and make good 
progress while we ate at leisure. I do not think I 
haye rowed towards a mountain so obstinately distant 
as this Kiatak, a peak of some 2500 feet. "We had 
now had it in sight for two days, and it seemed as 
far off as ever. At last, however, by the help of 
sails and oars, we began to draw in upon it. Now 
came a sea-fog to intercept us, but before the shore 
was quite enwrapped, we had come near enough 
to choose a landing-place and take our bearings 




About eight o'clock on the evening of August 10 we 
landed in a thick fog at our last camping-place on 
the east coast of Greenland. Just as I stepped 
ashore a flock of birds of the snipe kind, possibly 
dunlins, rose and settled again on a rock close by. 
A shot brought down four of them, and the acquisi- 
tion of these dainty birds was a good beginning. 
We had gradually learnt the art of unloading our 
boats with wonderful celerity, but the speed of this 
evening surpassed all previous records. All the 
work was done with keenness and despatch, and the 
zeal was not lessened by my promise to make some 
coffee. Balto was especially to the fore and reckless 
beyond measure. No sooner was he up on the rocks 
before he began to entertain us with an extract 
from the service after one of the clergymen away in 
Finmarken. His representation was excellent from 
an artistic point of view, but the performance was a 
sin which he never ventured to commit unless he 
>were quite sure of his life, To-day, too, he indulged 


in an oath or two, which was the first time for a long 
while. He even went so far as to give back to Eavna 
the Lappish Testament which he had borrowed and 
had in his possession for a long time, his idea being 
that he had no further use for it now. But when 
Sverdrup advised him not to be too cocksure, and 
warned him that there might be many a slip yet 
before the west coast was reached, he became a 
little more doubtful, and we had at least no more 

In my diary for this day I wrote among other 
notes : — ' While the boats were being unloaded I set 
about making coffee, this being the second warm 
meal we had had during the twelve days of our 
voyage up the coast. Supper and the coffee were 
enjoyed on the rocks down by the boat amid general 
satisfaction, and even the Lapps seemed contented. 
We were conscious of having reached one of our 
destinations and of having overcome one of our 
difficulties. Certainly the worst part of the journey 
still remained, but we should have firmer ground to 
go upon, more trustw^orthy ice to deal with, no 
drifting floes, and no boats liable to be crushed every 
moment. The Lapps especially would be much more 
at home on the snowfields of the " Inland ice " than 
among the capricious floes.' 

'The landscape round about us would certainly 


not attract everyone in the same degree as it did us. 
We sat on grey gneiss rocks and had on either hand 
a glacier running into the sea. The fog had hfted to 
some extent, and now and again we could see parts 
of the mountain Kiatak. In the water floated scat- 
tered fragments of glacier-ice. The whole scene was 
a study in grey and white touched here and there 
with blue, a sky of grey, a leaden sea with white 
spots of floating ice, grey rocks with patches of 
white snow, and blue in the crevasses of the glaciers 
and in the icebergs out at sea. But the dulness of 
the landscape found no reflection within us. This 
evening we retired to rest in a singular state oi 
elation, after , having secured a comfortable site for 
our tent high up on the rocks.' 

The next day, August 11, rose gloriously bright 
and fine. From our tent we could see the blue sea 
stretching away to the horizon, its surface broken 
here and there by the wandering blocks of ice, and 
its waves, raised by the gentle morning breeze, 
dancing and glittering in the sunshine. To the 
south we saw Colberger Heide rise out of the water 
with its mantle of snow and ice and protruding 
crags. In front of us or to the east was the huge 
conical mass of Kiatak stretching from the blue sea 
at its foot to the pale, cloudless August sky above. 
Beyond this and to the north lay the white snow- 



fields of the 'Inland ice,' which grew bluer and bluer 
and more and more rent and scarred as it fell to- 
wards the sea, and ending in lofty cliffs of seamed and 
fissured ice. From these great blue walls come all 
the icebergs and smaller blocks that are floating in 
the water round. Above, the snowfield is a simple 



(From a photograph) 

white expanse, broken only now and again by the 
blue streak which marks a wide crevasse ; slowly it 
passes away inwards and out of sight, ending in a 
white ridge which shows almost warm against the 
green-blue sky. 

Nature has not many sounds in these parts. 


Only the petulant screams of the terns pierce the ear 
as one stands and gazes at the grand and simple 
beauty of this desolate landscape. Prom time to 
time, too, one hears from the glaciers, whenever a 
new fissure forms or some mass of ice is jerked 
suddenly forwards, a sullen rumble which has the 
most striking likeness to a cannon shot. If for a 
moment one forgets one's surroundings, or hears 
these reports in one's early morning sleep, the 
deception is singularly complete.'^ 

But we have, in fact, no time to spend in the con- 
templation of Nature's wonders. The sun has long 
been calling us to work, so we must ' get our break- 
fast over with all speed. Most of ' the party have to 
go to work at once to scrape the rust off the sledge- 
runners and then off the steel-shod ' ski.' In their 
present state, after the ravages of salt-water and 
damp, they are all absolutely useless. Dietrichson's 
business is to make a map of the bay, the point and 
the adjacent glaciers, while Sverdrup and I are to 
set out upon our first journey on the ' Inland ice.' 
We must needs discover if an ascent is possible just 
here, and which wiU be the best course to take. We 
were indeed consumed with impatience for the first 
sight of this undiscovered country, in which, as we 
imagine, the human foot has as yet never trodden. 
But there are certain things to be done before we 


start. We must take some astronomical observa- 
tions, now that we have the sun, and some photo- 
graphs too, as the weather is so favourable. 

At last, now that the sun has passed the meridian 
and we have taken the altitude, we are ready to set 
off. With our bag of victuals, our glacier-rope, and 
ice-axes we start up the stretch of mountain-side on 
which our tent stands, and which lies like an island 
between two streams of ice. We were soon at the 
head of it and there found a small moraine from which 
we got a good view over the ice in front of us. We 
could now see that it was not so level as it had looked 
from the sea, as the white surface was seamed with 
numerous crevasses on every side. They were espe- 
cially plentiful in the two streams of ice which lay on 
either side of us, one to the north and the other to 
the south. After we had tried the northern branch 
and found it altogether impossible, we could see that 
our only course was along the ridge which lay between 
the two arms. Here we advanced a good way over 
solid ice. At first it was hard and rough with a 
rugged surface which crunched beneath our feet and 
cut the soles of our boots unmerciful^. Then we 
reached softer and wetter coarse-grained snow in 
which we sank to some , extent. But it was not long 
before we came to crevasses, though at first they 
were narrow and harmless and easily covered in the 


stride. Then they grew broader and op,ened a view 
to depths unfathomable. These were not even to be 
jumped, and we must needs skirt them either to the 
right hand or to the left. 

As most of my readers doubtless know, the cre- 
vasses generally run across the current of the ice- 
stream. They are due to the passage of the ice over 
ridges and changes of level in the glacier-bed. The 
lower layers are compressed, while the upper are 
parted by the strain and show a long, continuous rent 
which reaches nearly to the bottom of the whole 
mass of ice, and lies parallel to the ridge which has 
caused the fracture. The numerous inequalities in 
the bed and the downward movement of the mass of 
ice give rise to fissures corresponding in number and 
size, aU of them, as a rule, running in about the same 
direction. Again, if the glacier, after passing a cross- 
ridge, sinks into a trough or hollow, where the course 
of the ground thus becomes concave instead of convex, 
aU. the fissures are 'closed up and filled with snow 
and water, which freezing together gradually efface 

For a long while we got on fairly weU, partly 
because we could keep along the crevasses northwards, 
which did not take us much out of our course, and 
partly because they were in themselves not very long, 
and soon narrowed sufiiciently to let us jump over 

VOL. I. F P 


them. Often, too, we crossed them on snow-bridges 
or on narrow strips of ice, left by the incomplete 
severance of the mass, and forming diagonal bridges 
across the chasms, the bottomless blue depths of 
which we could see on either side as we. passed over. 
As long as the covering layer of snow was thin, there 
was no danger for us, as we could see when we had, 
firm ground beneath our feet and when it was- 
necessary to be careful or quicken our steps. , We-, 
had the , rope round our waists, of course, and kept 
it tight, between us in Alpine fashion in order to- 
minimise the consequences of a fall-. • 

But as we get farther up ^the snow increases in 
depth, we sink to our ankles, progress^ grows heavy,, 
treacherous cornices overhang the crevasses, and- 
sometimes the fissures are completely covered. We- 
have to grope and poke- before us with our stafis, or- 
we soon find ourselves only separated from the utter- 
most depths by a few inches of wind- driven snow 
through which the pole falls almost by its own 
weight. We neither of us had bad falls, though it 
was nasty enough now and again when one or other- 
of us sank to the armpits and felt his legs dangling- 
in space. This was a performance of which we soon 
got tired, and as soon as we could we changed our- 
line and moved farther south, where there was less 
snow and not so many crevasses. Here we could. 


push on with less care and made fair progress. In. 
time the crevasses ceased ahnost entirely, but to make 
up for this the coarse, wet snow was here deeper than 
ever, and it was unconscionably heavy work to plod 
along, sinking far above the ankles at every step. 
We now bitterly regretted that we had not brought 
our ' ski ' or Canadian snowshoes with us. We had 
the Norwegian ' truger ' on our backs certainly, but 

r^ 1.^, "f^u 

(Bji E. Nielsen, from a sketch by the Author) 

they were of no use, as the bearing-surface was too 
small for this kind of snow. 

We had ascended pretty gradually since we left 
the bare rock at a height of about 400 feet. In 
front of us to the north-west was a ridge, which we 
thought would give us the view we wanted into the 
interior could we onlv get there. We looked wist- 
fully towards it, but the way was long, and the snow, 

•PE 2 


as I have said, in a villanous state. "We are hungry, 
too, and as the sun is still high enough to let us 
think of bodily enjoyment, we put our ' truger ' on the 
snow, stamp holes in front of them, and thus make 
ourselves warm and comfortable seats in the sun- 
shine. It was a true relief to get a little rest like 
this. We set vigorously to work on our pemmican 
and biscuits, scanning the landscape meanwhile and 
enjoying the brilliant weather and cloudless sky. 
The reflection of the sun from the white surface of 
the snow troubles our eyes to some extent, and un- 
fortunately we have left our spectacles behind in the 
camp and have no protection against the glare. 

To the south in front of us the furrowed and 
riven surface of the broad ice-stream falls away sea- 
wards. We know that there are peaks and rocks 
below, but they are hidden from us as we sit here, 
and we see the blue sea stretching from the edge of 
the ice right away to the horizon. There is no real 
floe-ice in sight, nothing but a few scattered fragments 
here and there which come from the glaciers. How 
different things were a few weeks ago when we drifted 
by. Then the ice lay in a broad belt stretching from 
the shore some twenty or thirty miles out to sea, and 
so closely packed that not even our little boats could 
find a passage through. Now a whole fleet could 
make its way to land at any point it pleased, and 


without touching a single floe. Later in the day, 
when we had mounted higher, we could see right, 
away to the mountains by Cape Dan, The surface 
of the sea was everywhere smooth and bright and 
there was no drifting ice in view. 

But our dinner is over, and we have no time to 
lose if we are to reach the ridge before sundown,, 
which is the time one gets the clearest distant views 
over the surface of the snow. So we trudge off 
again with the renewed vigour which only food and 
rest can give one. The snow gets worse and worse. 
There was now a thin crust upon it, the result of the 
last few days' frost, and this took it out of us terribly. 
It let us through pitilessly every time we trod upon 
it, and hung about our ankles as we tried to 
draw our feet out again. This kind of thing will 
beat the strongest ; and dead-beat we certainly were, 
more especially because our legs were altogether 
untrained. It was many months since they had had 
any exercise, except for a little hauling of the boats 
about the floes. 

But there was no mercy for us. We must push 
on in order to reach the ridge as soon as possible, as 
it looked as if we should have rain and thick weathej* 
up there if we put it off till too late. The sky 
already seemed uncomfortably grey and duU along 
the upper edge. So we redoubled our efforts, and 


determined not to be beaten. It would be too 
absurd to arrive up there just late enough to see 
nothing, and be obliged to wait there till we could 
get a view, or else come up again next day. So the 
pace was increased and the stride lengthened till 
Sverdrup — who is short in the leg — came near to 
straining himself in his efforts to keep up with me 
and make use of the foot-holes which my long legs 
made in the snow. I could hear him cursing my 
seven-league boots till he must have been blue in 
the face with the exertion. At last, after we had 
thought again and again that we were there, but 
found the ground still rising in front of us, we 
reached the top of the long sought ridge. But, alas ! 
alas ! life is full of disappointments ; as one reaches 
one ridge there is always another and a higher one 
beyond which blocks the view. So it was here, and 
we must go on ; we must inspect the ice farther in, 
for that is the object of our expedition. No doubt 
we are justified in supposing that we have already 
passed the worst ice in the ten miles . or so we have 
gone to-day, but, it may well be that there is still 
difficult ground beyond. So we start off again as 
fast as our legs will take us towards the highest 
point of the ridge in front. There ■ seem to be a 
number of crevasses, but they are not of a kind to 
stop us. It now began to rain a little as we were 


climbing the rather steep slope in front of us. The 
going is heavier than ever, and we sink in the snow 
above our knees. Eain and fog may threaten as they 
please; we have to stop now and again to get our 
breath, exhausted as we are. This time, as far as we 
can see, we are not to be fooled ; if only the rain 
will let us, we seem likely to get a good view inwards. 
Already we can see some way, and I even get a 
glimpse of a projecting peak that has not been 
visible before. So we stride on with greater eager- 
ness than ever. 

At last we are on the top, and are richly rewarded 
for-aU our toil and tribulations. The great white 
snowfield lies before us in all its majesty. The rain 
is still falling in the form of fine dust-like spray, but 
it is not enough to hinder us from seeing all necessary 
detail even at a considerable distance. " The whole 
surface seemed smooth and crevasseless quite to the 
hbrizon. This we had expected, indfeed, but what 
we had not expected was the number of 'nunataks,' 
or peaks, small and large, which protruded from the 
•great field of snow for a long distance inwards; 
Many of them were covered and quite ' white, but 
many others showed cliflfs and crags of bare rock 
-which stood out in sharp contrast to the monotonous 
white ground, and served as welcome resting-places 
'for the eye. '••"'.-■•' 


We reckoned the distance to the farthest of these 
peaks to be some twenty-five or thirty miles, and we 
did not suppose that we should be able to reach them 
for many days. The gradient was even and slight as 
far as we could see ; but the going was anything but 
good, as we had already learnt ; and the last bit 
especially had been desperately heavy. If the nights, 
were not likely to be frosty, our prospects were not 
brilliant. But the barometer showed that we were 
now some 3,000 feet above the sea, and at another 
couple of thousand feet or so we felt sure of frost, 
at least at night. Poor unsophisticated wretches, 
who wished for cold in the interior of Greenland ! 

But our object was attained. In spite of ' nuna- 
taks,' and in spite of our beginning the ascent from 
the very sea-level, we had found the passage of the 
ice quite as simple and straightforward a business as 
we had ever ventured to hope. By this time we are 
hungry again ; the evening is far gone ; the sun must 
have set long since, though , the rain clouds have 
hidden it from view, and it is not too early for us let 
sit down upon our ' truger ' and bring out our pro- 
vision-bag once more. 

Supper being over, we have to contemplate our 
return. We are at least ten, if not fifteen miles 
from camp. There is no sense in going back the 
way we came ; we came out for a reconnaissance, so 


we must try and discover whether there is not an 
easier route by some other line. Especially we 
thought it possible that a mountain which lay to the 
south of us would give good access to the snow. 
We should be able to get up to a good height with 
firm ground still beneath our feet, and we should 
avoid the worst of the glacier-ice. It was certainly 
late in the evening for exploring purposes, but there 
was no help for it ; we must explore and put up with 
the night meanwhile. 

As the snow up here was at its worst and loosest, 
we put our ' truger ' on, to see whether they would 
not be of a little use to us, and they really were. 
So we set off refreshed upon our homeward way, 
steering for the mountain that lay to the south. But 
darkness came on quickly and we had not gone far 
before it grew uncomfortably difiicult to see the 
crevasses at a satisfactory distance. As yet, indeed, 
there were not many of them, but we must be pre- 
pared to meet with more than enough of them before 
long. We have to keep along the top of the ridge, 
which just here runs between two depressions which 
we have on either side. By this means we keep 
fairly clear of them. For a while all~goes well ; the 
snow is better, so good indeed that Sverdrup takes 
his ' truger ' off. We already see our mountain at 
no great distance, and here we hope to find water. 


and mean to liave a good rest and stretch our weary 
limbs on the bare rock. We longed indescribably 
for this firm ground, and we were sure it could not 
be far off now. But how often are one's reckonings 
altogether upset when one has to do with ice, whether 
it be in the form of floe or glacier. We had not 
gone many steps before we began to suspect that our 
' not far off' might prove to be quite far off enough, 
and even more too. We were now met in fact bv 
longer and nastier crevasses than any we had yet 
seen. At first we managed pretty weU, and with my 
'truger' I found. I could jump with greater. cer- 
tainty than J had done before without their help, and 
X30uld venture /more boldly on to the snow-bridges, 
as they did not let me through so readily. When 
these bridges were too weak to tread upon, we had 
recourse to a . more cautious method, and crawled 
over flat on our stomachs. 

But presently the crevasses became so broad 
that bridges were not to be expected, and we had to 
go round them. Bound them we went too with a 
vengeance, following them . often by the half-hour, 
sometimes upwards, sometimes downwards, but they 
grew longer and longer stiU. At last we reached one 
broader than all its predecessors, and longer too, as 
we were destined to learn. This we determined to 
.follow upwards, as we thought that there was mo^t 


chance above of finding its end. This had been the 
case with most of them, but this time we wefe 
thoroughly ' sold. We went on and on, and on 
again, farther and farther from our goal ; the peak 
of our mountain grew fainter and fainter in the 
darkness, but the crevasse remained as broad as 


{Bij E. Nielsen, /mm n sketch bij Ihe 
A vllior) 

ever. There were no bridges, and it was so dark 
that we could see no sign of change ahead. There 
was nothing for it but patience, which is a jewel 
indeed on such occasions. But it is a long lan6 that 
has no turning, arid though we' still went on and on 
we came to the end at last. We now promised our- 
•selves that this was -the last .time we would follow a 
crevass.e upwards. The other way at least brought 


US nearer to the mountain, where we were certain to 
find water for our parched throats. 

By this change of tactics we made greater pro- 
gress, and we now had the pleasure of seeing our 
goal loom nearer in the darkness. We had not 
■ many more steps to go when we saw in front of us- 
a dark stripe or hand in the snow. At first we 
thought it was another crevasse, even now separating 
us from the rock, but to our indescribable joy we 
discovered that it was water, glorious running water. 
We soon had our cup out, and drank, and drank, 
and drank again, and revelled in it, as only those 
can who have waded the whole day long through 
deep, wet snow without a drop of any kind to wet 
their lips. I scarcely think there is a greater enjoy- 
ment in life than plenty of good cold water when 
one is ready to perish of thirst. If it is ice-water, 
as it was here, one drinks till the numbness of one's 
teeth and forehead bids one stop, then one rests a bit 
and drinks again, slowly and solemnly drawing the 
water in, so that one may not have to stop agam too 
soon — the enjoyment is in fact divine. When on 
this occasion we' had drunk as much as we werfe 
good for, we filled our cup and flask, went on the 
few paces that remained to the cliffs, and finding a. 
comfortable seat on a jutting rock, where we could 
stretch our limbs at wiU and get a good support for 


our weary backs, we turned to the provision-bag 
again. What delight we found here too ! A tramp 
all day in the snow like this produces both hunger 
and fatigue, and we had more than enough of both 
to make existence supremely delightful as we lay 
there and devoured our pemmican, chocolate, and 

But presently it began to rain, which was not 
quite so delightful, and the darkness had increased 
so much that we could now not see more than two or 
three paces in front of us. But we had a good way 
to go to the tent, so we had to start off again. "We 
kept to the ice along the edge of the mountain side, 
where the surface was tolerably smooth, as it often 
is along the rocks, where the ice has not much move- 
ment, or is even frozen fast. For a time progress 
was easy, but then the incline grew so steep and 
slippery that it was all we could do to find and keep 
our footing. StiU more uncomfortable did things 
become when we found more huge crevasses lying 
in our path. In the darkness we could just see the 
great chasms which lay ready to receive us as soon 
as we made a false -step or allowed our feet to slip. 
The rocks by our side were so precipitous that there 
was no escape that way, and we hg,d to follow the 
line we were now taking. Without mishap we 
reached a rock which jutted out into the ice. Here 


below US, and between the main mass ot the moun . 
tain and the glacier, was an enormous ' bergschrund,' 
or chasm, some thirty or forty yards across and 
abysmally deep ; in the ice in front we could just see 
a number of crevasses, the width of which we could 
not determine, but they were evidently more than 
big enough to stop our progress. There was nothing- 
for it but to take to the rocks up a guUy which came' 
down just by us, by this means -skirt the projecting- 
pojnt and ' bergschrund,' and see if there were a 
more practicable course down below. It was a true 
satisfaction to have the firm rock beneath our feet 
again, and to feel the pleasure of a good foothold. 
In spite of the heavy rain which wetted us to the 
skin, we sat down for a long rest upon some boulders. 
We were now inclined to wait till dawn for a further 
attempt upon the glacier, as we felt sure tl;iat it 
would be full of crevasses further down, and in the 
darkness we might easily get completely fixed or, 
even come to grief for good and all. At last came 
daybreak, red and glowing in the east and spreading- 
a warm flush over the sky and landscape. Beneath, 
us lay the glacier, which now looked more practicable 
than we had expected. We chose the line which, 
seemed easiest, and set off once more. Though we 
now crossed the glacier not far from the edge which 
falls precipitously into the sea, the ice was not so full. 


of crevasses and impassable as it had been higher up. 
It was rough and rugged enough in its way, full of 
upstanding pinnacles and sharp ridges divided by 
clefts and hollows. It was often quite sufficiently 
hard work to cross these latter, though, they were 
not deep ; but the real long, bottomless crevasses, 
which we had found up above, were not abundant* 
here, and occurred only in certain parts. The reason ■ 
why there are so few of these down here must be 
that' they are filled with water, which freezes and 
turns them into mere furrows and irregularities in 
the ice. 

Our difficulties were now soon at an end, and 
after- a couple of hours' walking we came within 
sight of the camp. It was five o'clock in the morn- 
ing, and, as we expected, all our comrades were sound 
asleep. Our first business was to get hold of some 
food and make the most of what our larder provided. 
This was an indulgence which we thought we had 
fully deserved after our tramp of eighteen or twenty 
miles. Then we crawled into the sleeping-bags, 
stretched our tired limbs, and soon, floated into ■ 
dreamland, well satisfied with this our first excursion 
on the much discussed and much dreaded ' Inland- 
ice ' of Greenland, which we had always heard was- - 
so impossible of access, and still more impossible to^ 
traverse. As we had expected, we had not met witli 


these impossibilities, but the world would no doubt 
say that we had had the devil's own luck with us, and 
had reached our goal with much more ease than we 

Before we were ready for our final start, however, 
we had certain preparations to make which would 
take a considerable amount of time. Our boots 
especially needed thorough overhauling and repair, 
as the excursion of the day before had taught us 
in the most emphatic way that the ' Inland ice ' 
demanded no common strength and substance of 
sole. The steel runners of the sledges and ' ski,' too, 
had to be still further scraped and polished ; all our 
baggage had to be repacked,' and everything thaf-we 
were going . to cache here set apart. So for the next 
two or three days , all the members of the party 
might have been seen sitting about on the rocks out- 
side the tent,. busily occupied in the various arts of 
peace, that of the cobbler taking a particularly 
prominent .place. It was a strange sight to see these 
figures, which outwardly had very little in them to 
remind an observer of the cobbler's stall, sitting here 
amid these wild surroundings with boots between 
their knees, and plying meantime the awl, thread 
and bristle with as much apparent dexterity as if 
they had done nothing else all their lives. 

But leaving these industrious workers undis- 


turbed at their useful tasks, we will meanwhile 
devote the time to a short review of the previous 
attempts that have been made to penetrate to the 
mysterious interior of Greenland, and to a discussion 
of the results likely to be gained by a successful 
solution of a similar undertaking. 

A cobbler's stall on the east coast 

{From a photograph) 

VOL. I. 

G G 




It is not so much, the wild beauty of its rugged coast- 
line as the glaciers which lie buried in its numberless 
fjords, and the great mantle of snow and ice which 
covers its interior, that give Greenland a position of 
its own among the countries of the world. Wherever 
the traveller or explorer leaves the outer fringe of 
inhabited or habitable shore, and following the line 
of some fjord or vaUey, seeks to penetrate inland, at 
every point he is sooner or later met, at the latest 
perhaps at a hundred miles or so from the outer 
coast, by the external margin of the great 'Ind- 
landsis,' the largest tract of continuous ice to be 
found in the northern hemisphere. 

Here Eskimo and Scandinavians alike have been 
forced to stop, and of what lay behind this huge 
frozen barrier, which was generally considered in- 
superable to human effort, only fancy has been able 
to form a picture. Thus at all periods, since Green- 
land first became known to the wandering Icelanders 


to this very day, a veil has rested, as it were, over 
this strange interior, which no one has hitherto 
succeeded in completely drawing away. Behind this 
veil imagination has been allowed to play at its will, 
and, like all that is mysterious and inscrutable, the 
interior of Greenland has exercised a peculiar attrac- 
tion upon the minds of men. 

It was the Eskimo, as far as we know, who first 
peopled Greenland, and who were, therefore, the first 
to find their way to the ' Inland ice.' How long ago 
this was it is impossible to guess even approximately, 
but the hypothesis that their occupation took place 
no more than from five hundred to a thousand years 
ago is, as I shall try to show in a later chapter, 
scarcely tenable. 

The Eskimo came from regions which lie to the 
west, on the far side of Baffin's Bay and Davis Strait. 
Their old home was covered by no field of ice or 
snow, and the interior was habitable or inhabited. 
In Greenland, on the other hand, they soon found 
that at every point their further advance was stopped 
by a barrier of ice. This check no doubt prevented 
them from making any real attempt to penetrate into 
the interior, but it did not prevent them from making ' 
the same unknown interior the scene of aU the 
traditions which they brought with them of dealings 
and intercourse with the inland folk of the regions 

ae 2 * 


they had lived in before. These people must have 
been mainly the Indians of the northern coast of 
North America, and they have in course of time come 
to be the ' Inland Folk,' or ' Torneks,' with whom 
Eskimo tradition has peopled the interior of Green- 
land, and whom it has at the same time endowed 
with various wonderful and supernatural qualities. 
To the same origin, again, we must undoubtedly 
ascribe the legends still extant of migrations across 
the 'Inland ice.' They must really be migrations 
undertaken in the sraaller countries to the west which 
the Eskimo previously inhabited, the traditions of 
which have been subsequently transferred to Green- 
land and then localised in one spot or another. 

But though the Eskimo have in these tales and 
legends peopled the interior of Greenland with a race 
of ' Inland folk,', and various other mysterious and 
supernatural beings whose qualities and constitution 
we will not take upon ourselves here to discuss, they 
do not seem to have formed any general and definite 
idea of the real nature of this same interior. Never- 
theless in those parts where reindeer are to be found 
the native hunters would continually come into close 
contact with the outer edge of the ' Inland ice,' and 
as they would also often find their way farther into 
the 'nunataks,' or projecting peaks, to which the 
reindeer resort, and from such peaks would see 


nothing but a limitless expanse of ice and snow 
stretching as far as the eye could reach, it is not 
unreasonable to suppose that they have taken it 
for granted that the whole country is similarly 

The Norwegians who found their way from 
Iceland to Greenland some nine hundred years ago, 
and were in all probability living on the west and 
south-west coasts as recently as in the fifteenth 
century, appear to have very soon formed a com- 
paratively correct notion of the nature of the country 
and the ' Inland ice.' That this was the case we can 
judge from the remarkable old treatise which I have 
already quoted more than once. In this treatise, 
' Kongespeilet,' which we may feel sure expresses 
with fair accuracy the general opinion entertained at 
the time, the following passage occurs : — 

'But seeing that thou hast asked whether the 
land is free of ice or not, or whether it is covered 
with ice like the sea, thou must know that that part 
of the country which is bare of ice is small, and 
that all the rest is covered with ice, and that people 
therefore know not whether the country be large or 
small, seeing that all mountains and all valleys are 
covered with ice so that one can nowhere find an 
opening therein. And yet it would seem most 
credible that there should be an opening either in 


the valleys that lie among the mountains or along 
the shores, by which animals can find their way, 
since otherwise animals could not wander hither 
from other lands unless' there be an opening in the 
ice and land free from ice. But oftentimes have men 
tried to come up into the land upon the highest 
mountains that be found there and in divers places, 
in order to see round about them, and to discover if 
peradventure they could find land which was bare of 
ice and habitable, and they have nowhere found such, 
but only that on which people now dwell, and for a 
little way along the very shore.' 

But the old Scandinavian colonies decayed and 
died away ; the sea route thither was forgotten, and 
at the same time all the knowledge about the country 
that had gradually accumulated was lost. So in the 
seventeenth century we find the wildest ignorance 
prevailing on the subject of Greenland. The channels 
of Frobisher Strait and Beare Sound were drawn 
right across the peninsula, and in a map dating from 
the middle of the century and by the hand of one 
Mejer it was actually cut up into an archipelago of 
islands, which were declared to be thickly covered 
with wood, ' much in the same way as the country 
round Bergen in Norway.' 

In the year 1721, however, the Norwegian pastor, 
Hans Egede, made his first voyage to Greenland to 


search for the descendants of his countrymen, who, as 

he thought, might still exist there, and to carry to 

them in that case the Gospel of Christianity. 

Bgede, Egede could discover no countrymen of his 


own indeed, but he found Eskimo, and they 
he considered might also well have need of the one 
true doctrine. This was the beginning of Egede's 
own missionary work, and of the recolonisation of 
Greenland. The knowledge of those parts of the 
country which lay immediately by the sea now soon 
increased again, but as to the interior there seem 
to have prevailed, in Europe at least, for a long time 
yet, some most remarkable ideas, ideas which bore 
an unfortunate result in the Paarss expedition, which 
I shall presently describe. 

It was not long before people began to turn their 
thoughts to this strange interior, and to the idea of 
crossing the country to the east coast, where, as I 
have said in an earlier chapter, it was now gener- 
ally supposed that the old Scandinavian colony 
' Osterbygden,' or the ' Eastern Settlement,' had been 
situated. Thus in 1723 Egede received from the 
manager of the Bergen company which had taken the 
new Greenland enterprise in hand, a letter of instruc- 
tions, which ran thus : ' It seems to us quite advis- 
able, if indeed the thing has not been done 
already, that a party of eight men should be told off 


to march through the country, which according to 
the map would appear to be only from eighty to 
a hundred miles across at its narrowest part, for the 
purpose of reaching, if it be possible, the east side, 
where the old colonies have been, and on their way to 
look out for forests and other things. If this is done, 
as we should much like, the thing must be under- 
taken in the early summer ; and furthermore the men 
must be provided each with pack, provisions, and 
gun, as well as with a compass, in order that they 
may be able to find their way back again ; and, 
thirdly, the men of the party must both look out 
warily for the attacks of savages, in case they should 
fall in with any on the way, and must also make all 
possible observations, and wherever they pass must 
raise piles of stones upon high places, which will 
serve as marks both for this and future occasions.' 
This is an amusing instance of the achievements of 
colonial policy under the guidance of geographers of 
the study and easy chair. 

Egede was wise enough, however, to answer that 
he could see no possibility of carrying out the scheme 
to advantage. The maps were not to be trusted, 
since, as he says, ' within those limits in which I have 
hitherto travelled I find so much error.' And further 
he maintains that the projected land-march will be 
very difiicult and laborious, on account of the high 


cliffs, the mountains of ice and snow, and other im- 
passable tracts of ground. 

But by degrees, as the settlers began to move 
about and to see more of the country, and at the 
same time profited by the narratives and descriptions 
of the natives, they acquired a more correct idea of 
the true nature of the interior. Thus in 1727 we 
can see from a letter sent to Europe from Godthaab 
that people then understood that ' following the 
backbone or central ridge of the country from south 
to north was an appalling tract of ice, or moun- 
tain covered with ice.' Enterprise too was so far 
awakened that in the next year, 1728, it was thought 
possible that ' some young healthy Norwegians who 
were accustomed to traverse the mountains during 
the winter on their " ski " in search of game might 
explore a large part of the country in all directions.' 
This scheme, however, to which I have referred in 
an earlier chapter, was not destined to be realised 
for a hundred and sixty years. 

When we thus see that in certain quarters at least 
the aspect and nature of the country was tolerably 
Paarss ^^^^ Understood, it must strike us as nothing 
■^'^^^ less than surprising that in 1728 Major Glaus 
Enwold Paarss, the first and last titular Governor of 
Greenland, was instructed ' to spare no labour or pains 
and to allow himself to be deterred by no danger or 


difficulty, but to endeavour by all possible means and 
by one way or another to cross the country to the 
aforesaid " Osterbygd," for the purpose of- learning 
whether there still exist descendants of the old 
. Norwegians ; what language they speak ; whether 
they are Christians or heathens, as well as what 
method of government and manner of life prevail 
among them.' Paarss was furthermore desired to 
note among other things ' what is the true nature of 
the country ; whether there is forest, pasturage, coal, 
minerals, or other things of the kind ; whether there 
are horses, cattle, or other animals suited to the ser- 
vice of man.' 

For the purposes of the expedition there were sent 
out from Denmark eleven horses, one captain, and 
one lieutenant, while Paarss was ordered to take for 
his men ' the most intrepid among the garrison at 

It is obvious, of course, that this undertaking, 
which is the first and in its organisation the most 
elaborate of all expeditions sent out to penetrate to 
the interior of Greenland, could lead to no success- 
ful result in the form it originally assumed. The 
horses died, some on the voyage out and some at 
Godthaab, and it was soon discovered that a ride 
across the continent was not a particularly easy 


Nevertheless in the following year Paarss actu- 
ally made an expedition to the 'Inland ice.' On 
April 25, 1729, at noon, ' the Governor embarked in 
the name of the Lord and in company of his assist- 
ant Jens Hjort and Lieutenant Eichart, together with 
five men, and hoisted sail amid storm and driving 
snow.' They sailed ' far into Ameralikfjord,' where, 
continues Paarss, ' I took in return for payment two 
of the country folk dwelling there to guide us on our 
way.' It is rather a remarkable coincidence that 
this first expedition should have attempted to reach 
the, ice in the same fjord where the last expedition 
left it. 

His exploration of the ice itself Paarss describes 
in his report as follows : ' After we had marched for 
two days we came at noon on the third day to the 
edge of the " ice-mountain ; " but when we had 
ascended this and advanced upon it for two hours 
at our great peril, aU further progress was denied 
us by reason of the great chasms which we found 

These chasms he describes at length, and then 
proceeds : ' As soon as we saw that no further advance 
was possible we sat ourselves down upon the ice, 
with our guns fired a Danish salvo of nine shots, and 
in a glass of spirits drank the health of our gracious 
King on a spot on which it had never been drunk 


before, at the same time paying to the " ice-mountain" 
an honour to which it had never before attained; 
and after we had sat and rested ourselves for about 
one hour we turned back again.' 

Among the most remarkable things which he saw 
Paarss first mentions ' the great stones lying upon the 
ice,' which, he opines, must indubitably be carried 
there ' by great and violent winds and tempests, which 
there have incredible fury ; for the " ice-mountain " 
is to look upon just as when one beholds the wild 
sea, where no land is to be seen, since here also 
there is nothing else in view but sky, and the bare 
ice. Furthermoi-e, the ice on which we walked was 
sharp-edged like white sugar-candy — so much so 
that were any advance possible on the same " ice- 
mountain," one must have soles of iron beneath one's 
shoes, so bad was the ice to walk upon.' 

Such are the most important features of Paarss' 
own account of his exploits and observations on 
what he calls the ' ice-mountain,' and it is plain that 
the results of the expedition bear no sort of pro- 
portion to the grandeur of its preliminary organisa- 
tion. It is strange, indeed, that Paarss, who ascended 
the ice not far from the very spot where we came down, 
should not have discovered some passage by which 
he could have pushed into the interior had he been 
so minded. 


On May 7 the party returned to Godthaab from 
this ' dangerous and very laborious expedition.' 

This first expedition can, however, hardly have 
been quite unproductive of results. Though it pro- 
bably did not to any appreciable extent modify the 
generally accepted view as to the nature of Green- 
land as held in the colony itself, whose inhabitants 
had already acquired a good deal of information on 
the subject, it cannot have failed to have considerable 
effect at home in Copenhagen, seeing that the next ex- 
pedition organised by the Danish Government was not 
sent out till 1878, or a hundred and fifty years later. 

In a book which was published in 1746 we read, 
as I have already said in my chapter on ' ski,' in 
connexion with a ship's captain whose business took 
him into Greenland waters, and who had attempted 
the exploration of the ' Inland ice,' that ' the above- 
mentioned skipper has tried in all manner of ways, and 
even with the long foot-boards, of which, as is known, 
the Lapps and others make use for winter travelling, 
but has not been able to penetrate very far into the 
country ; and after he had lost one of his men who 
ventured some way on before the others, and sank 
down before their eyes, so that they could hear 
his cries and lamentations, but could not go to his 
help, he was constrained to turn back without this 
man and without hope of ever being able to advance 


farther.' ^ This passage is interesting not only be- 
cause it contains the first mention of the use of ' sM ' 
upon the 'Inland ice,' but also because it records 
the only known instance of loss of life on the same 

The first expedition to advance any way into the 
interior of which we have an account was under- 
Daiager taken in 1751 by one Lars Dalager, a mer- 
^"^^^ ' chant of Fredrikshaab, who reached two 
' nunataks ' which lie some five or ten miles from the 
outer edge of the ice-field, and on the south side of 
the glacier which is known in Greenland and Denmark 
as ' Fredrikshaabs Isblink.' This excursion he has 
described himself at the end of a book which he wrote 
in Greenland entitled ' Gronlandske Eelationer . . . 
sammenskrevet ved Friderichshaabs Colonic i Gron- 
land. Anno 1752.' 

Dalager^ had gone towards the end of August 
1751 up to the edge of the ice at a spot a little way 
to the north of Fredrikshaab. ' My errand,' he 
writes, ' was only to divert myself with my gun, but 
on this occasion it was not long before I had resolved 
to set out on a journey across the " ice-mountain " to 
" Osterbygd," to which determination I was led by a 

' Johan Anderson, Nachrichten von Island, Qronlamd unA der 
Strasse Davis (Hamburg, 1746), p. 158. My own extract is from 
Captain J. A. D. Jensen's Om Indlandsisen i Gronlcmd (Copenhagen, 
1888), p. 34. 


new discovery made in the preceding month of July 
by a Greenlander, who had been so high up while out 
hunting that he could see distinctly, as he said, the 
old Kablunak mountains on the eastern side.^ 

' This moved me, as I have said, with a desire at 
least to see the land, like Moses of old, and I took 
with me the aforesaid man and his daughter, together 
with two young Greenlanders. We set out upon our 
journey after having already advanced thus far into 
a fjord by the southern side of the glacier.' 

The party left the fjord on September 2, reached 
the edge of the ice next day, and on the day foUow- 
ing, ' in the morning,' says the writer, ' we committed 
ourselves to the ice, purposing to reach the first 
mountain-top, which lies in the middle of the ice-field 
and which was five miles distant from us. So far 
the ground was as flat and smooth as the streets of 
Copenhagen, and all the difference that I could see 
was that here it was rather more slippery, but on the 
other hand one had not to wade out to the sides in 
the slush in order to avoid being overthrown by the 
posting-horses and carriages.' 

The next morning they all went on ' to the upper- 

' Kablunak, or more correctly Kavdlv/iiak, is the Eskimo name for 
Europeans, or now more especially Danes. The mountains here re- 
ferred to would be those in the districts inhabited by the old Scandi- 
navian colonists, and in this particular case those of the ' Osterbygd ' 
in question. 


most mountain on the ice, called Omertlok, to which 
it was also about five miles, but here the ice was very- 
rough and full of cracks, for which reason it took us 
seven hours to reach it.' From the top of this moun- 
tain they had a wide view inwards, and in the dis- 
tance above the north-east horizon they saw some 
peaks, which Dalager took to be mountains on the 
east coast of Greenland, but which have subsequently 
been identified as ' nunataks ' lying some twenty 
miles or so from the western edge of the ice, and 
which are now known as 'Jensen's JSTunataks.' 

When they were on the top of this summit, 
Dalager continues, ' they began to fall into admira- 
tion at the great prospect in all directions, and above 
all at the mighty ice-field which stretched away up 
the country and across to the " Eastern Settlement," 
where the mountains like those on which we stood 
were covered with snow.' Thej' remained on the 
peak till seven o'clock in the evening, when Dalager 
' ended the day with an address to the Greenlanders, 
which treated of the inhabitants of Osterbygd in 
old times and of their physical as well as spiritual 
welfare. Meanwhile the sun went down and we 
descended the mountain some way and then laid 
ourselves down to rest.' 

Dalager would have been glad to push farther in, 
but, as he says, ' I was constrained for many reasons 


to set my face towards home, one being very import- 
ant, that we were now going no better than bare- 
footed. For, though each of us was provided with 
two pairs of good boots for the journey, yet they 
were aheady quite worn out by reason of the sharp- 
ness of the stones and ice. And as the handmaid 
whom we had in our company had, to our great 
misfortune, lost her needle, we could get none of 
our things mended. For this cause we were much 
embarrassed, though we consoled each other with 
laughter as we contemplated the naked toes peeping 
out from the boots.' 

On the next day therefore, Sepl^ember 6, they 
turned homewards, and on the evening of September 
8 they reached the camping-place down by the 
fjord, and, concludes Dalager, ' I cannot here forbear 
to mention with what unusual appetite I emptied 
that evening a whole bottle of Portuguese wine, after 
which I slept on tiU the following day at noon.' 

Dalager also gives a description of all that he 
saw in the interior, in the course of which he ex- 
presses far less dread of a journey upon the 'Inland 
ice ' than many of his successors have done even 
down to the present day. He says among other 
things, ' To give my opinion about the great plain 
of ice which prevents our having any communication 
with " Osterbygd," I believe that in respect of the 

VOL. I. H H 


surface a crossing is practicable, inasmuch as it 
seemed to me that the " ice-mountain " is by no means 
as dangerous as folk have proclaimed it to be, aud 
that the chasms are not so deep as has been asserted.' 
But on other grounds he thinks the crossing to be 
impracticable, and he adds subsequently : ' But 
nevertheless it will be impossible to succeed in 
making such a journey, for the reason that one can- 
not drag with one as much provision as one should 
reasonably be provided with on such a march ; and 
further on account of the intolerably' severe cold, 
in which I think it all but impossible that any living 
creature could exist, if he were to encamp for many 
successive nights upon the " ice-field." ' This is 
followed by a remarkable description of the cold, 
which was so severe that, though they were all well 
clad and none of them 'particularly tender,' their 
limbs would nevertheless ' at once shrink up, as it 
were,' as soon as they sat or laid themselves down 
for an hour or so upon the rocks. ' I had for my 
part,' he says, ' two good vests of wool for under- 
clothing, and over them a pelisse of reindeer-skin, 
while at night I wrapped myself in a fine cloak with 
double lining, and, moredver, put my feet into a bag 
of bear-skin ; but with all this I was unable to retain 
the warmth. I can say that of all the bitter winter 
nights on which I have camped on the ground in 


Greenland, none have so much distressed me by 
reason of the cold as these nights early in the month 
of September.' 

This description, which has hitherto been little 
noticed, contains the first record known of the extreme 
cold of the ' Inland ice,' which we too experienced 
in the very same month. 

From Dalager's time till well into the present 

century very few Europeans, as far as we know, can 

have visited or ascended the 'Inland ice.' 

Fabricius . . 

One of these few was Fabricius, a well-known 
Greenland naturalist who lived in the last century. 
From his hand we have a treatise dealing with the 
floe-ice and glacial phenomena of Greenland as they 
were then understood, which is in many ways a re- 
markable piece of work for the time, and gives a very 
good idea of the real state of things. It shows too 
that Fabricius must have personally visited, and to 
some extent explored, the ' Inland ice.' 

Again, in the beginning of this century, the 
German mineralogist Giesecke, who travelled in 
Greenland from 1806 to 1813, made some 
small expeditions to the edge of the ice in 
the southern part of the country. In his diary 
he describes what he saw in enthusiastic terms, 
but the excursions were otherwise of little conse- 

H H 2 



A long interval of inaction now follows, during 
which the interior of Greenland seems to have lost 
all interest for the world. The general view as to the 
nature of the ' Inland ice ' seems meantime to have 
been none of the clearest, and the strangest notions on 
the point were allowed to spring up and flourish at 


will. There was now indeed no necessity to examine 
more closely into the condition of things, now that it 
had been discovered that the unknown interior in aU 
probability contained no wealth or material treasures. 
At the same time, however, there were persons who 
had legendary tales to tell of the existence behind 
the great ice-barrier of fertile tracts from which the 


reindeer carae and to which they resorted in the re- 
curring seasons. 

Some forty years later, or about the middle of the 

present century, a new era in the history of the 

'Inland ice' was inaugurated by the work 

Dr. Kink . ... 

of a single scientist, Dr. Eink. By a series 
of elaborate writings, the result of many years' resi- 
dence and exploration in Greenland, he drew the 
attention of the scientific world to this huge ice- 
mantle, which, instead of being as barren and devoid 
of interest as it had latterly been considered, was 
now seen to be a phenomenon of immense import- 
ance for scientific purposes. Dr. Eink pointed out 
among other things the . enormous inagnitude and 
thickness of the great ice-cap,; and. the huge masses 
of ice that were thrown off year after year by 
Grreenland, the .only country, in the. northern hemi- 
sphere which supplies the great icebergs of the Arctic 
seas. He has calculated, for instance, that each of 
the great fjords must send out into the sea not 
less than eight or ten million cubic feet of ice every 

A new world was, as it were, thus laid open to 
science by these treatises on the ' Inland ice ' and its 
effects. No doubt several naturalists, and among 
them the celebrated Agassiz, had conjectured the 
existence of great continental ice-sheets in actual life 


and activity, but geologists were now brought face to 
face with the fact that Europe and America must once 
have been covered with an 'Inland ice,' precisely- 
similar to that which now shrouds Greenland, to the 
effects of which must be ascribed the many scratches 
and signs of erosion that are to be seen on rocks 
and mountain-sides, and the many moraines and 
erratic boulders which are strewn over the whole of 
Northern Europe and- often lie in the strangest situa- 
tions. The doctrine of the great ice-age was thus 
inaugurated and a new epoch of geological history 

The necessity of more extensive and elaborate 
investigations at the only accessible spot where the 
glacial forces were now actually at work on the 
largest scale was soon made plain, and there conse- 
quently followed a new series of attempts to penetrate 
to the interior of Greenland. 

The series began, however, with an expedition 

which was not scientific in its aim, that which was 

sent in 1860 on the ' Fox,' under the com- 

Eae, 1860 

mand of the Arctic explorer Sir Allen Young, 
to examine into the possibility of carrying a tele- 
graph-cable across Greenland to America.^ There 

* The year before too Colonel Sohaffher, whose visit to Greenland 
I have mentioned in Chapter X., appears to have made an excursion 
from Julianehaab to the ' Inland ice,' under the guidance of an official 
of the colony, Lieutenant Hoier. 


seems to have been at one time an idea of landing 
a sledge-expedition, in charge of Dr. John Eae, who 
had had. a good deal of sledging experience, upon 
the east coast, with the object of crossing the ice 
to, the western side. The ' Fox ' reached the southern 
part of the east coast about the middle of September, 
and the sledge-party could apparently have been 
landed here without difficulty. At this point, how- 
ever, those in charge of the expedition seem to have 
thought better of the scheme, so the ship went round 
Cape Farewell to the west coast instead. Here, at 
the end of October, Dr. Eae made an attempt upon 
the ice in the neighbourhood of the- colony of Juliane- 
haab. From the narrative of Lieutenant Zeilau,^ who 
accompanied the party for a time, one would gather 
that the expedition did no more than contemplate the 
ice from a distance, but from Dr., Eae's own account 
it appears that he did really set his foot upon the 
glacier, but was very soon brought up by ' a deep 
and wide crevasse that effectually stopped further 
progress.' ^ This, I may perhaps be allowed to say, 
must have been a remarkable crevasse indeed. 

In October of the same year the American 

' T. Zeilau, Fox-Expeditionen i Aaret 1860 (Copenhagen, 18G1), 
pp. 156-171. 

^ See a paper read by the author before the Royal Geographical 
Society and the subsequent discussion. Proceedmgs of the B. O, 
Society, August 1889. 


Arctic traveller Dr. Hayes also made an attempt 
Hayes, upon the ' Inland ice,' although this was 
in the far north by Port Foulke, in lat. 
78° 18' N.i 

According to Dt. Hayes the party started on 
October 22, and returned after a lapse of six days. 
The first day they reached the edge of the ice, and 
on the second day they began the ascent. Five 
English miles are said to have been covered on this 
second day, thirty on the third, and twenty-five on 
the fourth, and this upon ice of the roughest kind 
and with the snow in an exceedingly bad condition, 
as the feet of the party at every step broke through 
the upper frozen crust. How these distances were 
reckoned we are, curiously enough, not told. On the 
fifth day again the party were forced to turn back by 
a terribly cold wind, and on this day accomplished a 
march of nearly forty miles. On the sixth and last 
day they reached their winter quarters. Dr. Hayes 
gives a heart-rending account of their sufferings from 
hardship and cold, a cold which, though no lower 
than - 34° F., seems to have come near to costing 
them their lives. 

It must strike the reader as remarkable that 

' During the second Grinnell Expedition in 1853 and 1854, Dr. 
Hayes as well as Dr. Kane had had several opportunities of seeing 
aind visiting the margin of the great Humboldt glacier. See Arctic 
Explorations in the Years 1853, 1854, 1855. 


pedestrians of such strength and endurance should 
have made so poor a fight against the cold. 

The description of this expedition, on the scien- 
tific importance of which Dr. Hayes is inspired to 
add a special chapter, can scarcely fail to rouse 
the suspicion of the wary and thoughtful reader. 
All who have any intimate knowledge of the subject 
will see without much reflection that it is a simple 
impossibility to march even twenty-five, to say 
nothing of thirty and forty, miles a day on snow 
and ice in the condition which Dr. Hayes describes, 
and at the same time to haul the necessary baggage 
for a party of men on a single sledge. It must be 
remembered too that Dr. Bessels, of the ' Polaris ' 
expedition, has pointed out the inaccuracy of Dr. 
Hayes' determinations of latitude, and shown that 
he cannot have advanced so far to the north as 
he claims. These are grave considerations when the 
trustworthiness of a scientific report is in question, 
and they warn us against drawing any important 
conclusions from Dr. Hayes' record. 

In 1867 the well-known English traveller and 
Alpine climber Edward Whymper made an ascent of 
whymper *^® ' I^l^'iicl icc ' from a little fjord, Ilordlek, 
■^^^^ lying to the north of Jakobshavn and near 
lat. 69° N. Whymper, as others before him have 
done from very early times, as the passage from 


' Kongespeilet,' wHch I have already quoted, clearly 
shows, had conceived the idea that there might be 
a certain amount of bare land in the interior of Green- 
land which was sufficient to attract migrant herds of 
reindeer, and at the same time that it was not im- 
possible that the peninsula might be ' broken up into 
detached masses, or archipelagoes, such as are found 
throughout the Arctic circle ; the distance from the 
east to the west coast of the continent ' being ' suffi- 
ciently considerable to admit of the existence of large 
unknown fjords and arms of the sea.' ^ 

To penetrate to these possible oases was therefore 
the explorer's object, and his journey of 1867 seems 
to have been at first regarded as preparatory to a 
future expedition on a larger scale. 

Whymper arrived at Jakobshavn on June 15, 
and three days later, accompanied by a number of 
Eskimo, he started for the 'Inland ice,' which he 
reached in the southern arm of IlordlekiQoi'd, some 
twenty miles to the north of the colony. The 
object was to see whether this spot were favourable 
for an ascent of the ice, and whether sledges and 
dogs could be used for the purposes of the expedi- 
tion. The first view showed the surface of the 
" Inland ice ' to be much smoother and far less 

' ' Explorations in Greenland,' by E. Whymper, in Good Words, 
January, February, March, 1884. 


formidable than had been expected. The party 
ascended it and advanced without difficulty, finding 
the snow harder and better to walk upon the farther 
they went; When they had pushed in some six 
miles, and reached a height of about 1,400 feet, and 
the surface appeared to them to be equally good as 
far inwards as they could see, they considered that 
the object of the excursion had been attained, and 
that there was nothing to be gained by advancing 
farther. They were convinced that the snow-field 
was eminently fitted for dog-sludging, and the 
Eskimo declared that they could easily drive' thirty- 
five or forty miles a day. They all turned back with 
the best hopes of success, ■ ' for there appeared to be 
nothing to prevent a walk right across Green- 

However, as at Ilordlek the ice does not quite 
come down to the water's edge, Whymper deter- 
mined to look for a suitable spot where this was the 
case, so that he might take to the ice at once and 
avoid the transport of liis baggage over land. So 
between June 24 and 27 he made another excursion 
to the edge of the ice-field, this time to - Jakobshavns 
Isfjord,' as it is called, which lies to the south of the 
colony. Here, however, the ice was so fissured and 
rough that any transport by means of dog-sledges 
would have been impossible, and therefore the spot 


which they had first visited was decided upon as the 
starting point of the expedition. 

A number of preparations were, however, 
necessary, and in his attempt to carry out these 
Whymper was met by difficulties which proved 
almost insuperable. Just at this time the coast 
settlements were visited by an epidemic lung-disease, 
which attacked and carried off old and young alike. 
Out of the 300 inhabitants of Jakobshavn no less 
than one hundred were ill, and all activity was 
necessarily paralysed. Unluckily too another epi- 
demic had just been working havoc among the dogs. 
The neighbourhood had been almost swept clean of 
serviceable animals, and it was a most difficult task 
to gather together a sufficient number. Then again, 
though Whymper had brought with him from Eng- 
land materials for his dog-sledges, the few capable 
carpenters had their hands quite full of work in the 
fabrication of coffins for the victims of the plague. 
The only thing to be done was to take the ordinary 
Eskimo sledges, which were made of inferior 
materials and by no means fitted for the work they 
would be required to do. For the dogs' food a 
quantity of Hudson Bay pemmican had been 
brought, but, as it was now found that the Greenland 
dogs refused to eat this preparation, a supply of dried 
seal's flesh had to be scraped together from one quarter 


and another. This again was by no means an easy 
task, since most of the best catchers were ill of the epi- 
demic and something like a general famine prevailed. 

At last, however, most of these obstacles were 
overcome in one way or another, and on July 20 the 
expedition was ready to start. The party consisted 
of five members, Eskimo and Europeans, in addition 
to Whymper himself, one of the latter being the 
English traveller Dr. Eobert Brown. Two days or 
so were spent in carrying the baggage up from the 
:Qord to the edge of the ice, and three more in waiting 
for more favourable weather. 

Meanwhile Whymper ascended one of the neigh- 
bouring heights to obtain a view over the ice, and 
was most unpleasantly surprised to find that the 
surface had completely changed its aspect. When 
he had seen it a month before there had been a 
covering 'of the purest, most spotless snow,' but 
this had now melted away ' and had left exposed a 
veritable ocean of ice, broken up by millions of 
crevasses of every conceivable form and dimensions.' 
With this covering of snow disappeared aU 
Whymper's fairest prospects. 

However on July 26, as the weather was now 
better, an attempt was made to push over the ice 
eastwards. But after advancing for a few hours and 
having covered only a couple of miles of ground. 


the party were brought to a standstill by the break- 
ing of one of the runners of a large sledge, by the 
splitting of another on one of the smaller, and the 
general dilapidation of the rest owing to the rough 
treatment to which they had been exposed. 

Whymper at once saw the impossibility of pushing 
on, but as a matter of form sent three of his party a 
mile or two farther to see if the ice were likely to be 
better, though he knew that for many miles it must be 
much the same.^ The detachment on their return re- 
ported things worse rather than better, and, the whole 
party therefore turned their faces towards home. 

The result of the visit to Greenland was that 
Whymper's belief in the existence of bare land in 
the interior of the continent was considerably shaken, 
and in 1871, in his book ' Scrambles among the 
Alps,' he writes, ' The interior of Greenland appears 
to be absolutely covered by glacier between 68° 30'- 
70° N. lat. ; ' and the fact that at his last attempt he 
had seen the crevassed glacier ice extending as far 
inwards as the eye could see led him to the conclu- 
sion that there must be a considerable extent of ice- 
and snow-field still farther in, since ' such a vast body 

' Dr. Robert Brown, who was one of this party, has written some 
account of the expedition in Petermann's Mittheilungen (1871, p. 385), 
where he makes the strange statement that they saw in the interior 
a ' nunatak,' or island, which is now completely surrounded by ice, but 
which within the present century has been not only accessible in 
' kayaks,' but even inhabited. 


of glacier requires an enormous snow reservoir for its 
production.' He also estimated the height of the 
most distant part of the ' Inland ice ' within view at 
' not less that 8,000 feet,' an elevation which, though 
somewhat too high, cannot be very far from the 

With the journey which was undertaken in 1870 

by Baron Nordenskiold and Professor Berggren a new 

period in the history of glacier-exploration in 


skioid, ' Greenland begins. This was the first time that 

1870 ° 

any traveller had penetrated a considerable 
distance beyond the outer margin of the ' Inland ice ' 
and spent several days in succession encamped upon 
its surface, while this was furthermore the first expe- 
dition of the kind to produce results of real scientific 

On July 19, 1870, the two Swedish travellers, 
together with two Greenlanders, passed the edge of 
the' ice in the northern arm of AulatsivikQord, 
which lies to the south of Egedesminde, or near lat. 
68° 20' N. Provisions were taken for thirty days, but 
there was no tent and the members of the party had 
to sleep in two bags, which were open at both ends 
and contained two persons each placed feet to feet. 
This bed, however, proved cold as well as uncom- 
fortable when the ice beneath was rough. 

The whole equipment was to be hauled on one 


sledge, but the party had. not advanced far before they 
found that it would be an impossibility to drag so 
heavy a load over the rough ice. On the second day, 
therefore, Nordenskiold determined to leave a portion 
of the provisions and the sledge behind. The rest of 
the things were carried on their backs and the party 
proceeded on their way inwards. 

On July 21 they had advanced half a degree of 
longitude from their starting-point at the :Qord and 
were 1,400 feet above the sea. Here the Green- 
landers refused to go farther and next morning 
returned aome. The two energetic Europeans, 
however, were not satisfied, and went on alone for 
two more days. 

On July 22 they were at a point in lat. 68° 22' N. 
and 56 minutes of longitude east of their camping- 
place on the fjord, and had mounted to a height 
of nearly 2,000 feet. The next day, July 23, they 
stopped for the night in lat. 68° 22' E". and 20 
minutes farther to the east, and, curious to say, at a 
height of only 1,900 feet, or somewhat lower than 
they had been the preceding day. 

Scarcity of provisions now made a return neces- 
sary, but in order to obtain a view over the ice-field 
farther east the two travellers mounted a ridge some 
distance in, leaving all their baggage meantime 
behind at the camping-place. From this elevation 


they could see that the plateau went on continually 
rising, and was unbroken by any range of peaks, so 
that the view to the east, north, and south was limited 
by a horizon of ice almost as level as that of the 
sea. The turning-point was 2,200 feet and about 83 
minutes of longitude, or 35 miles, to the east of the 
northern arm of Aulatsivikfjord. The daily average 
of distance traversed was about seven miles. On the 
night of July 25 they reached the original starting- 
point by the fjord after having spent seven days 
altogether upon the ' Inland ice.' 

The aspect of the ice passed over in the course of 
this march was circumstantially described as well as 
illustrated by drawings taken by Berggren on the 
way. The surface was either furrowed by deep and 
sometimes broad crevasses, or consisted of ridges and 
hollows, the former as much as forty feet in height 
and with sides sloping at angles of from twenty- 
five to thirty degrees. Another great hindrance to 
quicker progress was the number of rapid streams 
which flowed in deep channels in the surface of the 
ice and often could not be crossed. These river& 
generally ended in great holes, or so-called ' glacier- 
weUs,' into the dark-blue depths of which they were 
precipitated in roaring cascades. At one spot the 
travellers also found a kind of spring or fountain, or 
' an intermittent column of water mixed with air,' 



which was projected upwards. Many small lakes 
and pools too were found, which had no apparent 
outlet, in spite of the numberless rivers they received. 
' When one laid the ear down to the ice one heard 
from all sides a peculiar subterranean murmur from 
the streams enclosed below, while now and again a 
single loud cannon-like report announced the forma- 
tion of some new crevasse.' 

During the whole journey the weather was 
bright. The temperature, taken a little above the 
ice, rose in the day ' to 45° or 46° F. and in the 
sun to 75° or even 85° F. After sunset, on the other 
hand, the pools of water froze and the nights were 
therefore cold.' These' observations are in a small 
way a counterpart of the remarkable changes of tem- 
perature which we were destined to experience. 

One of the most remarkable results of this ex- 
pedition, a result which attracted much scientific 
attention, was the first description of the so-called 
' glacial dust ' or ' cryoconite,' a fine grey powder 
which was found strewn on the surface of the ice 
as far as the travellers penetrated. Owing to the 
absorption of warmth from the sun, this dust had 
sunk into the ice and led to the formation of perpen- 
dicular cylindrical holes, from one or two feet deep, 
and from a couple of lines to a couple of feet in 
diameter. These holes lay so thick that one might 


look in vain for a place between them which would 
contain the foot, to say nothing of the sleeping-bag. 
At the bottom of the holes, which were always full of 
water, the dust lay in a deposit some millimetres in 

To this dust Nordenskiold ascribes great signifi- 
cance, as he considers it to be of cosmic origin, and 
it has helped to inspire him with a new theory as to 
the constitution of the earth, which, he thinks, must 
•be, at least partly, formed and continually supple- 
mented by an almost unappreciable but still constant 
reinforcement of cosmic dust from the surrounding 
universe. Other scientists have, however, subse- 
quently shown that this powder in its constitution 

' has a remarkable resemblance to the materials of the 
mountains of the coast, and therefore believe that it 
is mere dust blown from them on to the ice. One 
fact that seems to support this latter view is that the 
farther one penetrates into the interior and leaves 
these mountains behind, the more the quantity of the 
dust decreases. And furthermore, on the east coast 
of the continent by Umivik, where bare land almost 
disappears, we found scarcely any dust upon the ice 

■ at all. 

The year after this important piece of exploration, 
or in 1871, the Inspector of North-West Greenland, 
Krarup Smith, sent out an expedition to the interior 

II 2 


under an Assistant in the Greenland Trade Service, 
Moidrup, named Moldrup, but it seems for some reason 

or other to have returned without having 
effected its object. 

The next year, 1872, Whymper came again to 
Greenland and explored the district to the north of 
Whymper, I^isco Bay and by Umanak Fjord. This time 

he made no atteinpt upon the ' Inland ice,' 
but confined himself to ascending peaks at its margin 
for the purpose of getting a view of the interior 
plateau. On August 18, for instance, he ascended 
Kelertingouit, a mountain near Umanak and 6,800 
feet above the sea. From the summit he had an 
extensive view over the plateau, and saw, as on 
his previous visit, ' a straight, unbroken crest of 
snow-covered ice, concealing the land so absolutely 
that not a single crag appeared above its surface.' 
"With a theodolite he measured the angle to the 
apparent summit of the ridge, and came to the 
conclusion that it must be ' considerably in excess 
of 10,000 feet.' Whymper seems now to have con- 
vinced himself that no bare tracts of ground could 
exist in the interior, for he says that the investiga- 
tions made at various spots ' render it a matter of 
all but absolute certainty that the whole of the inte- 
rior from north to south, and east to west, is entirely 
enveloped in snow and ice.' 


The attention first aroused by Dr. Eink's 
writings on the ' Inland ice ' of Greenland had by 
this time produced good results. Owing to investi- 
gations in the Alps and Scandinavia as well as in 
Greenland itself, the study of glaciers and snow- 
fields, of their work and all phenomena connected 
with them, had advanced with rapid steps, and the 
doctrine of the ice-age had taken a definite form and 
definite proportions. 

Meanwhile the idea had also gradually developed 
that the great ice-sheet which had formerly shrouded 
Scandinavia and the whole of the north of Europe 
had not merely covered that tract of country, but 
had to a large extent helped to give it its present 
outward form and appearance. It was now under- 
stood that the ever-moving glaciers had not only 
carried away with them and distributed elsewhere 
soil, grit, stones, and all the loose material that lay 
beneath them, but had also by their eroding and 
quarrying power helped to cut deep fjords, basins, 
and valleys where they rested on the solid rock, 
forming together with other agents all the features of 
such a landscape as we have in Western Norway at 
this day. 

This theory was strongly urged by the Scotch 
geologist Eamsay, and one piece of evidence which 
spoke forcibly in its favour was that countries which 


are cut up into a complex of fjords and valleys like 
Scandinavia are only to be found where marks of 
glacial action are also evident. The view, however, 
found many opponents among geologists, one of 
whose strongest arguments was that all the glaciers 
known and investigated in Europe had so small a 
rate of progression that the erosion which they 
could produce could not by any means be held suf- 
ficient to account for the gigantic results attributed 
to them. An advance at the rate of a couple of 
feet in the twenty-four hours had been observed, 
but this speed was quite exceptional. 

In 1875 the Norwegian geologist Amxind Hel- 
land, who had taken special interest in the marks 
Heiiand ^^ ^^^ ice-age as shown in Norway, and in 
^^'^"' this connexion had drawn attention to many 
remarkable phenomena, paid a visit to North Green- 
land to measure the rate of movement of the glaciers 
and to see the results they were producing there. 
During the months of June, July, and August his 
investigations covered that portion of the coast which 
lies between the colony of Egedesminde, in lat. 
68° 42' N., and the fjord of Kangerdlugssuak, in the 
Umanakuiistrict, or near 71° 15' N. He visited five 
of the so-called ' ice-fjords ' and a number of minor 
glaciers, as weU as Ilartdlek, or Ilordlek, Fjord, the 
glacier of which does not reach the sea. Here he 


also ascended the 'Inland ice,' at about the same 
spot where Whymper made his ascent. 

The result of this journey was in one respect at 
least surprising. Instead of the low rate of glacier- 
movement already known, which amounted to a 
couple of feet at most in the day, Helland found that 
the great glacier in the ' ice-fjord ' of Jakobshavn 
had a rate of progress reaching as much as sixty- 
four feet in the day. Another glacier in Torsuka- 
takfjord was more moderate certainly, as it advanced 
little more than thirty feet in the same time. Here 
were quite new factors for the calculations of those 
geologists who had ascribed to the ice so large a 
share in the making of fjords, lake-basins, and valleys. 
Many, however, refused to believe in the accuracy of 
these observations, but they have been more than 
established by subsequent investigations.' Helland's 
discoveries on the whole went far to support the 
glacial theories generally, but, as I shall come back 
to this subject in a separate and final chapter, I will 
say no more about them for the present.^ 

' Among these, the elaborate investigations of Lieutenant Hammer 
in Jakohshavns ' loe-fjord ' deserve especial mention. 

^ A. Helland, ' Om de isfyldte Fjorde og de glaciale Dannelser i 
Nordgrbnland,' in Archiv for Math, og Naturvidenskab, vol. i. 
(Christiania, 1876). See also an article by the same writer in the Quart. 
Journ. Geol. Soc. for February 1877, pp. 142-176, ' On the Ice-Fjords 
of North Greenland, and on the Formation of Fjords, Lakes, and 
Cirques in Norway and Greenland.' 


In 1875 Dr. Eink had discussed the possibility 
of exploring the interior of Greenland, and it was his 
opinion that a crossing of the peninsula from west 
to east would be a most important undertaking. ' I 
think,' he wrote, ' that it must be done with sledges 
hauled by men, and that two small ones ought to 
be constructed in the most careful way and furnished 
with every necessary. Besides the scientific con- 
ductor of the expedition and his assistant, I should 
say about four Europeans would make the proper 
complement.'^ This idea agrees, as will have been 
seen, in several particulars with my scheme, but, 
curiously enough, I had never come across this 
passage till I returned from Greenland. Eink, how- 
ever, chose the west side of the country as the start- 
ing-point and recommended the district to the north 
of Fredrikshaab for the ascent of the plateau. 

In the following year, 1876, the Danish Govern- 
ment instituted a series of scientific investigations in 
Greenland, which have been continued systematically 
to the present time. These investigations, commonly 
known in Denmark as ' De geologiske og geografiske 
undersbgelser i Gronland,' have produced results of 
great value and interest, a great part of which are 
recorded in ' Meddelelser om Gronland,' a work 

^ ' Ueber das Binnenland Gronlands und die Moglichkeit selbiges 
au bereisen,' Petermann's Geogr. Mittheihingen, 1875, pp. 297-300. 


issued periodically by the board of commissioners 

officially charged with the undertaking. 

As would be expected, the exploration of the 

'Inland ice' was among the most important objects 

which the new organisation had in view, and 
Holm, , _ ^ _ , ' , 

steen- the expedition sent out in its first year, in 

strup and 

Kornerup, charge of the geologists Steenstrup and 
Kornerup, and Lieutenant G. Holm, were 
commissioned, among other things, with an investi- 
gation of the edge of the ice-field in the district of 
Julianehaab.^ It was proposed that the party should 
make their way some little distance in to a group of 
' nunataks,' which were known as the ' Jomfruer ' and 
were marked on the maps of Greenland, in order 
to examine the surrounding ice and see whether it 
would make a suitable starting point for a subse- 
quent expedition on a larger scale. They were 
stopped at the outset by the general roughness of 
the ice and the size of the crevasses, and therefore 
confined themselves to measuring, the movement of 
the ice in three glaciers, the highest rate which they 
recorded being some twelve feet in the twenty-four 

The next expedition was sent out in the follow- 
ing year, under Steenstrup and Lieutenant J. A. D. 

' Meddelelser om Gronland, Part I., p. 6 (Copenhagen, 1879). 
= Ibid. Part II., pp. 1-27 (Copenhagen, 1881). 


Jensen, to tlie northern part of tlie district of Fred- 
'riksbaab. The party were instructed to make a 
Jensen general examination of the coast and, if 
Btrup*^^°" possible, to penetrate some distance into the 
' Inland ice ' in the neighbourhood of the 
glacier known as ' Fredrikshaabs Isblink,' or at some 
other convenient point. This was just the spot 
which Dr. Eink had recommended two years before. 
The attempt, however, was frustrated by unsettled 

The expedition which followed in 1878 met with 
more success. This time the party were under the 
Jensen Command of Lieutenant Jensen, and consisted 
■"■^^^ of the geologist Kornerup and an architect 

named Groth, together with an Eskimo of the name 
of Habakuk. ' Fredrikshaabs Isblink ' was again 
the base of operations. On July 3 the party made 
their way up to the ' nunatak ' Nasausak, which lies 
on the south side of the glacier and is some 4,700 
feet above the sea. This is one of the group known 
as ' Dalager's Nunataks,' and the ascent, which was 
otherwise of little importance, is of interest from the 
fact that it was made over the same ground which 
the enterprising old explorer had traversed. 

Here, however, the condition of the ice was con- 
sidered unsuitable for more extended investigations, 

' Meddelelser om Grbnland, Part I., p. 8 (Copenhagen, 1879). 


and another attempt was made from a fresh starting- 
point, Itivdlek, on the north side of the glacier. 

For this expedition careful preparations had been 
made. Provisions were taken for three weeks, and 
the whole equipment, which weighed about four 
hundredweight, was distributed upon three small 
sledges, each to be drawn by one man and weighing 
alone somewhat more than twenty pounds. As snow 
was expected in the interior, four pairs of ' ski ' and 
four of Indian snowshoes were taken. 

A start was made on July 14, the four whom I 
have already named being accompanied for some 
distance by four Greenlanders — one man and three 
women . The ice was found to be exceedingly rough, 
and progress proved slow and difficult. Lieutenant, 
now Captain, Jensen has given in his report ^ a graphic 
account of the many hardships and difficulties against 
which the party had to contend, among them being 
an attack of snow-blindness, from which they all 
suffered more or less. Consequently they advanced 
by short stages, and it was not till July 24 that they 
reached the group of ' nunataks ' which Dalager had 
supposed to be the mountains of the east coast! 
These were about forty-five miles from the starting- 
point of the expedition and twenty or so from the 

' Meddelelser am Qrbnland, Part' I., p. 54 et seq. (Copenhagen, 


nearest point on the margin of tlie ice-field, and they 
are now known as ' Jensen's Nunataks.' 

On the largest of these exposed peaks, the base of 
which was rather more than 4,000 feet above 'the sea, 
the party were detained for a week, owing to a snow- 
storm. On July 31 they were able to set out upon 
the return journey, and the same morning Captain 
Jensen ascended the peak. From its top, which was 
some 5,000 feet above the sea, he had a good view 
to the east over the expanse of the 'Inland ice,' 
which seemed to rise uninterruptedly as it stretched 
away inwards and ended in a horizon of considerably 
higher elevation than the point on which he stood. 
On the evening of August 5, or after an absence 
of twenty-three days in all, they returned to their 
camping-place at Itivdlek, where they were warmly 
welcomed by the Eskimo there waiting for them. 

This journey is among the most interesting that 
have been recorded in connexion with the ' Inland 
ice.' The results of the expedition were of great 
importance, and valuable information was brought 
back as to the condition of the ice and its movements 
in a tract full of projecting peaks and rocks, as to 
the geological nature of these rocks and the organic 
life to be found upon them, as well as a large number 
of sketches drawn by two of the party. 

The great obstacles with which "this expedition 


had to contend, and which seemed to point to the 
absolute inaccessibihty of the interior, deterred the 
Danish Commissioners from organising any fresh 
attempt in this direction, though the crossing of the 
continent from west to east had been their original 
idea, and Jensen's journey was really only a prepara- 
tory reconnaissance of the ground. 

Since this year their efforts have been confined to 
explorations along the edge of the ice-field, to short 
joiirneys into the near-lying ' nunataks,' and mea- 
surements of the movement of glaciers. The results 
have been valuable and interesting, one of the most 
noteworthy being the observations of Lieutenant 
C. Eyder in August 1886, when he recorded in the 
Upernivik glacier in Northern Greenland a daily 
advance of no less than one hundred feet. 

In 1880 the Swedish geologist Hoist travelled in 
the south of Greenland and ascended the ' Inland ice ' 
ggigt at several points. The object of his journey 
^^^^ was mainly to investigate the ' glacial dust ' 
or 'cryoconite' of Nordenskiold, which he found to 
be composed of the same substances as the mountains 
of the coast, and therefore believed to be dust blown 
from them on to the ice by the wind. 

But though the Danes had apparently abandoned 
all attempts to explore the interior or cross the con- 
tinent, one of the most important expeditions on the 


great ice-field was yet to come, that of Baron Nor- 

denskiold in 1883. The indefatigable Arctic explorer 

was not content with his first journey in 


skioid, 1870, and now made a second attempt to re- 

1883 . . . . 

move the veil which still hid the secrets of 
the mysterious interior. . He, like Whymper, was pos- 
sessed with the idea that in the ' Northern. Sahara,' 
as he called it, there might be oases not only bare 
of snow, but possibly as well wooded as the tracts 
which border upon the cold pole of Siberia. Though 
no earlier explorer had been able to discover any 
limit to the desert of ice and snow on its eastern 
side, he held that there were many arguments which 
went to show that, generally speaking, it would be 
a physical impossibility for a large continent to be 
entirely covered with a mantle of ice in the climatic 
conditions which prevail elsewhere upon the globe to 
the south of lat. 80° N. As to the interior of Green- 
land, he maintained that there was no difficulty in 
proving that the conditions indispensable for the 
formation of glaciers could not exist there unless the 
country rose gradually on the east and west alike, 
and thus had the form of an inverted basin or trough 
with sides sloping slowly and regularly from the sea.^ 
To this surprising conclusion Nordenskiold was 

' Nordenskibld, Den andra DLchsonsha Expeditionen till Gron- 
land (Stockholm, 1885), p. 89 et seq. 


led by the argument that for the formation of an 
ice-field or glacier a certain amount of snow or 
rainfall is necessary, and that the amount deposited 
in the interior of Greenland cannot be sufficient for 
the purpose. All the air, he considered, which camfe 
from the surrounding seas, and ought to bring mois- 
ture with it, had first to pass the ranges of high 
mountains which bordered the coast. As it passed 
up their sides it would become cooled, and as it rose 
become expanded owing to the diminished atmo- 
spheric pressure, and thus it would be compelled to 
deposit most of its moisture at the outset. In so 
doing again it would set free its latent heat and 
itself grow warmer, while as it descended on the far 
side of the mountains and the atmospheric pressure 
increased, its temperature would rise still higher. 
In this case it would reach the valleys and depres- 
sions of the interior in a dry and warm condition 
just like the well-known ' Fohn ' winds of Switzerland. 
Thus the sea-winds of the coast of Greenland would 
deposit their moisture, generally in the form of snow, 
on the outer ranges of mountains, while all the wind 
that reached the interior, whether from east, west, 
north or south, must arrive there dry and compara- 
tively warm, unless the continent were orographically 
difierent from all the other countries of the globe. 
In the interior therefore, concluded Nordenskiold, 


' the snowfall can scarcely be sufficient to maintain a 
permanent mantle of ice.' 

This chain of reasoning could no doubt within 
certain hmits find justification, if one really had such 
a country to deal with, a country surrounded on all 
sides by high coast-mountains and with a flat interior 
of comparatively low elevation. Of such a country, 
however, we can scarcely be said to have an example 
on a large scale, and such an orographical structure 
we could expect to find anywhere rather than in 

On the other hand, when Nordenskiold maintains 
that the geological phenomena of Greenland point to 
an orographical structure similar to that of the Scan- 
dinavian peninsula, a land of high ridges and peats 
with intervening valleys and plains,! am fully prepared 
to agree with him. But in that case the climatic con- 
ditions of the interior must be quite sufiicient to allow 
of the formation of an ice-cap, for where in Scandinavia 
is there not moisture sufiicient for the purpose if only 
the necessary temperature were forthcoming ? The 
great Swedish explorer seems almost to have forgotten 
that we have at this very day glaciers and snowfields 
on a small scale in the interior of Scandinavia, and 
that there are many others in spots far removed from 
the sea ; and furthermore that these, which are now 
mere remnants, must once have been of enormous 


dimensions and have enveloped whole continehts. 
But here, perhaps, Nordenskiold would answer that it 
is this very assumption that he disputes, and would 
contend that these great ice-fields of the glacial 
period never did cover the interior of a continent in 
one unbroken sheet. 

This expedition of 1883, which was intended to 
push through the ice-belt to the east coast as well as 
explore the interior, was, like Nordenskiold's first 
expedition in 1870, due to the liberality of Baron 
Oscar Dickson, of Gothenburg. 

The ascent of the ice began on July 4, at about 
the same spot as the previous attempt in 1870, or a 
little to the south of Disco Bay. The party consisted 
of ten, two of whom were Lapps, who came provided 
with their ' ski.' For two or three days they were 
helped ' with the transport of their baggage over the 
first rough ice by the ofiicers and crew of their own 
vessel, the ' Sofia.' 

In the course of eighteen days Nordenskibld 
advanced about seventy-three miles and reached a 
height of nearly 5,000 feet. On July 21, however, he 
was compelled to stop oh account of the wetness of 
the snow, into which sledges and men sank ahke. 
Before he turned back he sent his two Lapps on into 
the interior on their' ski.' Though the party had as 
yet seen nothing but ice and snow, and were in the 

VOL. I. K K 


middle of a huge ocean-like expanse which suggested 
no hope of change, I^Tordenskiold still had the courage 
of his opinions, and gave the Lapps orders^ in case 
they came upon bare ground, to collect specimens of 
all the plants found growing there. 

On July 24, or after fifty-seven hours' march, the 
Lapps returned and reported that they had been 230 
kilometres, or about 145 miles, into the interior, and 
had reached a height of some 5,850 feet. As far as 
they could see. the surface was an endless, unbroken 
tract of snow. As I shall have occasion to point out 
later, there are several reasons for believing that the 
Lapps rated the distance they had covered far too 
highly, apart from the extreme difficulty of travel- 
ling so rapidly over such snow as the surface of the 
'Inland ice' affords. 

On the following day, July 25, the return journey 
was begun, and on August 3, after thirty-one days 
upon the ice, the party reached their camping-ground 
by ' Sofias Hamn ' upon the northern arm of Aulatsi- 
vikfjord. The Eskimo, who were waiting for them 
here with provisions, clothes, and other things, were 
no less rejoiced than astonished to see them again. 
They had regarded them as lost beyond hope, and, as 
they declared, had worn out many pairs of boots in 
climbing the mountains to look for them. 

The ice over which the travellers had passed was 


in many respects teiliarkable. At first certainly it 
had been rough and often full of crevasses, but on 
the whole it was less broken and Uneven than that 
which their predecessors had "described'. They had 
found too, when they had advanced some way, an 
immense flat expanse of snow which showed no sign 
of either ice or crevasse and stretched as far as the 
eye could see. The expedition, even apart from the 
Lapps' journey on their ski, had penetrated farther 
into the interior than all its' predecessors, and had 
reached for the first time the plain of snow which 
we are now justified in supposing must cover the 
whole of the interior of Greenland. 

It was, as I have already said, the news of this 
achievement which finally determined me to adopt the 
plan after which our own expedition was carried out. 

One would be inclined to think that JSTorden- 
skiold's own exploit had made the existence of any 
inland oases extremely improbable. This seems, 
too, to have been his own view immediately after 
his return, though he subsequently feU to doubting 
again, and began to consider it at least possible 
that in the journey of 1883 he and his companions 
had followed a broad belt of ice which extends across 
the country in the parallels of lat. 69° and 70° N.^ 

' Nordenskiold, Den andra Dichsonska ExpedAtionen till Gron- 
land (Stockholm, 1885), p. 129. 

K K 2 


To the north, and south of this belt he considered 
that there might be oases free of ice. One piece of 
evidence that might be held to support this view he 
saw in two ravens which had come flying from the 
north towards the Lapps, and had turned back 
again as soon as they reached their tracks in the 
snow. As these birds are not in the habit at this 
time of year of straying far from their nesting- 
places in the mountains along the coast, Norden- 
skiold thought that this was a substantial argument 
in favour of the existence of bare land somewhere 
to the north. This might possibly be by the shore 
of a sound or channel, which he thinks may cross 
the whole country from the neighbourhood of 
Jakpbshavn on the one side and perhaps to Scoresby 
Pjord on the other. The ends of this channel may, 
in the course of the last few centuries, have been 
blocked by masses of ice given off by the glaciers 
there situated.^ 

The tradition of this .sound comes from Hans 
and Paul Egede, who report a legend on the subject 
current among the Eskimo, and the same idea has 
appeared again and again in one form or another 
ever since Greenland was rediscovered in the six- 
teenth century. 

' Nordenskiold, Den amd/ra Dichsonsha Expeddtionen till Qrbn- 
land (Stockholm, 1885), pp. 238-235. 


First came the mythical ' Frobisher Strait '• and 
' Beare Sound,' which were supposed to exist in the 
south of Greenland, and were marked upon aU the 
maps of the day. These arose from the fact that 
Frobisher had made a number of discoveries among 
the North, American islands on the western side of 
Davis Strait without knowing exactly where he had 
been. This gave rise to the belief that it must 
have been Greenland that he had explored, and to 
Greenland, therefore, the channels and islands which 
he described were attributed. It was soon made 
plain, indeed, that he had not been to Greenland, 
but to the coast on the other side of Davis Strait, 
but the belief in the existence of a ' Frobisher Strait ' 
across the south of Greenland was nevertheless 
maintained for many years. Thus even in Cranz' 
"Historic von Gronland ' of 1765 an account is given 
of a sound crossing the south of the continent, as 
well as of that which was supposed to traverse it 
farther to the north. Hans Egede had no faith in 
the former of these two channels, as he could find 
no trace of it whatever, and he therefore omits to 
mark it upon the map given in his book ' Det gamle 
Gronlands nye Perlustration,' which was published 
at Copenhagen in 1741. But, on the other hand, 
both he and his son Paul fully believed, as I have 
said, in the existence of the more northerly channel 


from ' Jakobshavns Isfjord ' to some point on the 
opposite coast. This is set oflF upon his map, and 
Paul Egede also has it on his map in the ' Efterret- 
ninger ,om Gronland' of 1788. A facsimile of this 
is given by Nordenskiold in his account of the ex- 
pedition with which we are now concerned.^ 

I have no intention of entering upon a discussion 
here as to the possibility of the existence of this 
long narrow channel, a parallel to which can scarcely 
be found upon the globe, but it seems to me at least 
that the whole orographical structure of Greenland 
makes such a phenomenon extremely improbable. 
; , The last expedition to the ' Inland ice ' previous 
to 1888 was that of Eobert Peary, of the United 
Peary and States Navy, and Christian Maigaard, a 


1888 Danish official in the Greenland Service, 

which was undertaken in 1886. 

Peary speaks of the journey as a preliminary 
reconnaissance.^ It was originally intended to make 
use of sledges and dogs, but the Eskimo who had 
been retained for the purpose deserted the travellers 
at the eleventh hour, and took the .dogs and sledges 
with them. The two ' Europeans were therefore 
compelled to proceed on foot and alone. For the 

^ Nordenskiold, Den andra Dichsonsha Exjpeditionen till Gron- 
land (Stockholm, 1885), p. 234. 

' Bulletin of the American Geograpliical Society, vol. xix. (New 
York, 1887), pp. 261-289. 


first few days, indeed, they had the help of one man 
and one woman, but neither of these could be per- 
suaded to do much more than set their feet upon 
the ice. 

The starting-point was the head of Pakitsokfjord, 
or perhaps I should more correctly say Ilordlekfjord, 
in lat. 69° 30' N. This was the very fjord where 
Whymper had made his attempt, and where the 
Norwegian geologist Helland had also been upon 
the ice. 

The actual ascent of the ice began on June 28. 
The provisions, which were calculated to last thirty 
days, and the rest of the equipment were hauled on 
two ' nine-foot sledges, thirteen inches wide, made of 
hickory, steel, and hide, on a modified Hudson Bay 
pattern, and weighing complete twenty-three pounds' 
each.' One pair of ' ski ' and one pair of Indian 
snowshoes each were taken, and these seem to have 
been in frequent use. There was no tent, but a 
shelter was made of a tarpaulin and the two sledges. 
The travelling was done by night and the sleeping 
by day, and for .a time, while the state of the snow 
permitted it, snow-huts were built every day. 

On the evening of July 2, when the two had 
already been weatherbound for two days, they de- 
termined to return to the camp by the fjord and wait 
for a change, but left the sledges and other things 


behind. On July 6 they rejoined their baggage, and 
went on their way inwards, after leaving a deposit of 
provisions sufficient for a week. ISText morning, as 
they were crossing a little lake with a thin covering 
of ice, Maigaard's sledge went through. It was re- 
covered, but Maigaard states that the amount of 
water which his baggage took up made the load at 
least a hundredweight heavier than before, and it 
was only with difficulty that he could now drag it.^ 

During the greater part of the journey the tem- 
perature was below freezing-point, and the snow 
consequently in a good condition for the use of ' ski.' 
On the night of July 12 the thermometer even sank 
as low as to 7° F. (-14° C). On July 9, however, 
there had been an unpleasant' change in the weather, 
as a wind from the south-east caused the temperature 
to rise from 21° F. to 46° F., and made the snow wet 
and sticky. There seems to have been a typical 
' fohn ' wind blowing over the ' Inland ice.' 

On July 11 another deposit of provisions and 
other things was left behind, a height of 5,000 feet 
having now beeii reached. 

On July 17 the elevation was 7,525 feet, and the 
distance from the edge of the ice, according to a 

^ Oeograflsh TidsTirift, vol. ix. p. 90 (Copenhagen, 1888). This 
would majie more than ten gallons of water, which is no small quan- 
tity to be absorbed in such a way. We are not told what the baggage 
contained that could have taken in so large an amount. 


longitude reckoned by Peary, somewhere abouty a 
hundred miles. Here the two travellers were delayed 
by a snowstorm till July 19, when the weather cleared 
sufficiently to allow of an observation being taken at 
mid-day. In the evening they turned back, and, as 
they now had the wind behind them, they lashed the 
two sledges together, and rigged up a vessel with 
■alpenstocks for a mast, a tarpaulin for a sail, and a 
' ski ' with an axe attached to serve as a rudder. 

On this craft they sailed, according to Maigaard's 
calculations, some twenty-seven miles the first night, 
thixty-two the second, and fifty-four the third, while 
after this they were obliged to take to hauling again 
on account of the roughness of the ice. On the 
morning of July 24 they were once more at their 
camping-place by the fjord, after having spent twenty- 
three days in all upon the ice. 

The ice these two passed over was, with the ex- 
ception of the first part, very level throughout, and 
more so even than that which Nordenskiold had 
traversed in 1883. There were not many crevasses, 
and for the greater part of the way the surface was 
covered with a layer of dry snow, into which, at the 
extreme point which they reached, Peary could drive 
his stafi" six feet deep. This state of things must have 
made progression very much easier than usual. 

Unfortunately, Peary's longitude was only based. 


as it seems, on some observations of altitude taken 
with the theodolite about noon on July 19. The 
expression ' circum-meridian sights,' which both he 
and Maigaard use, is not quite clear iii itself. These 
so-called ' simple altitudes ' are, besides, notoriously 
uncertain for longitude reckonings. The chronometer, 
too, had come to a standstill, and an ordinary watch, 
which Peary declares to have been very trustworthy, 
was used in its place ; but, as far as I can see from his 
account, no observations were taken subsequently by 
the coast to determine this timekeeper's accuracy. 

The distance of a hundred miles from the margin 
of the ice cannot, therefore, be considered as esta- 
blished beyond all doubt. The days' marches again, 
which are said by Maigaard to have often been 
between twelve and eighteen miles, may strike the 
reader as somewhat long. I know well from my 
own experience that a great deal of work is neces- 
sary to cover so much ground with a heavy sledge 
in tow, if the gradient be ever so little against one.^ 

' It is difficult to say, too, what faith we can place in this elevation 
of 7,525 feet, as it was only based upon the records of an aneroid 
barometer. Though we had with us three particularly good aneroids 
made specially for us in London, we should regularly have estimated 
our elevation much too high, if we had not had a boiling-point barometer 
to correct our daily observations. As these latter observations had 
not then been worked out, this is exactly what I did when I sent off 
my letter from Grodthaab to Herr Gamffl. All our three aneroids 
sank and rose very regularly, and in full harmony with each other, 
and when we reached the west coast returned to almost exactly the 


However all this be, the expedition is one of the 
most noteworthy that has been recorded in connexion 
with the ' Inland ice,' and one cannot but admire the 
energy and enterprise of the two travellers who did 
so much alone and with such small resources. 

The same summer Peary visited the edge of the 
ice at several points farther north. 

As will have been gathered already, this series of 
expeditions upon the ' Inland ice,' or to its edge, had 
gradually provided a mass of information sufficient 
to enable us to form a fairly accurate and complete 
idea of its true nature along the whole of the west 
coast as far as Upernivik. The two last expeditions, 
that of Nordenskiold in 1883 and that of Peary in 
1886, had also taught us that inside the margin of 
broken and fissured ice there was an extensive tract 
of smooth and level snow, rising gently towards the 
as yet unknown interior. 

Thus a great gap in our general knowledge of 
the huge ice-field had already been filled. But there 
was much to be done yet, and it was to accomplish 

position they had held when we left the sea-level on the other side. 
This shows that it wiU not do to attach too great importance to obser- 
vations taken by the aneroid barometer alone. Nevertheless, Peary's 
height does not seem at all too much for the distance from the coast. 
We were quite as high as this when we were no more than 110 kUo- 
lietres, or 68 mUes, from the east coast, and 160 kilometres, or 111 miles, 
from the west ; and I should be incHned to think that the gradient must 
be about the same between lat. 69° and 70° N. 


at least a part of this that the present expedition was 
taken in hand. 

As to the state of the ice on the eastern side 
httle or nothing was as yet known. The Danish 
expedition under Captain Holm had, indeed, during 
their voyage up the coast seen a good deal of the 
margin of the ice-field, but had had no time to devote 
to its exploration, and, as far as Europeans were con- 
cerned, it had hitherto remained actually untrodden.^ 
An investigation of its general nature on this side, 
and measurements of the gradients, must therefore be 
matters of no little importance. 

Even less was known of the great interior plateau. 
The experiences of Nordenskiold and Peary enabled 
us, no doubt, to form certain conclusions as to its 
aspect and nature, but these could not be regarded 
of much value as long as it remained unvisited. 
There were still authorities who maintained that it 
might not be absolutely covered with ice or snow. 
Though I had myself never inclined to this view, I 
considered that an investigation of the altitudes and 
contours of the plateau, or, in other words, of the 

' I may here mention that I have been informed by Captain 
Hovgaard,who commanded the ' Dijmphna Expedition,' that some few 
years ago he proposed to the Danish Naval Minister that the expedition 
then contemplated to the east coast of Greenland should be combined 
with a dog and sledge expedition across the continent from east to west, 
which he' considered himself qualifi ed to carry out with success. Little 
attention, however, seems to have been given to the project. 


general form of the snow- or ice-cap," must be an 
undertaking of very great interest. 

But another task, to which I attached perhaps 
greater importance, was the examination of the 
meteorological phenomena of the interior. Previous 
expeditions had done little or nothing to contribute 
to our knowledge, and I think I was justified when 
I wrote in the Norwegian periodical ' Naturen ' that 
' a series of ' climatic observations, of measurements 
of temperature, atmospheric moisture, wind-force and 
air-currents, of data as to snow- and raih-fall and 
cloud-formations, would be tnaterial of great im- 
portance to meteorology, since on these huge tracts 
of ice and snow the climatic conditions must be' en- 
tirely different from those of any region from which 
we now have regular and systematic records.' ^ Nor 
were we disappointed, as 1 shall subsequently show, 
in our expectation of meeting with striking cliniatic 

I might have added that these meteorological 
observations would be of importance to geology as 
well, for the inquirer can scarcely pronounce with 
authority upon the internal economy, if I may so say, 
of the great ice-cap, unless he be familiar with the 
climatic conditions which prevail upon its surface. 

These I considered the most important of the 

' Naturen, ' Gronlands Iridlandsis ' (Bergen, 1888). 


problems which awaited solution in the interior of 

But of what use, it may be asked, can the solution 
of such problems really be ? The same question has 
been put to many explorers, and will no doubt be 
repeated again and again as time goes on. There 
are many answers to the question, of general as well 
as special application. In this case the reader should 
bear in mind that so huge a tract of ice and snow 
must have a great influence upon the climate of all the 
surrounding regions ; that, speaking more generally, 
eYerj single section of the earth's surface stands in 
intimate and reciprocal relation with its neighbours ; 
and, lastly, that the mere fact that the interior of 
Greenlaiid is a part, and no insignificant part, of that 
planet on which we dwell, is quite sufficient to make 
us wish to know it, and to impel us to persevere until 
we do know it, even though our way should lie over 
the graves of our predecessors. 

This being so, the sooner the knowledge was 
attained the better. 






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Shewing the starting-point of the Expedition, and their route for the 

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— Direction of Crevasses. 

Route of Expedition. 

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